Published On: Wed, Dec 7th, 2016

Ghana election tight but peaceful

 

Ghanaians turned out in large numbers on Wednesday as President John Mahama faced off opposition frontrunner Nana Aku-Addo in general elections. DW correspondents said voting was slow but peaceful.

Ghana Wahlen (Reuters/L. Gnago)

Three hours in the queue of an Accra polling station have turned Azazariah Norteyi into an angry man. “The process is very bad. The queue is not moving at all. People are just squeezing themselves in here and there,” he told a DW correspondent in front of a polling station in Ghana’s capital.

Interest in the elections was high across the country with a large chunk of the 15 million registered voters turning out. Many began lining up at the 29,000 polling stations at dawn, sometimes waiting for hours before they could cast their ballots.

“There are two major candidates and they have two different agenda for the country so, I believe is very critical for us to decide which way is good for the country,” a voter who only identified himself as Seth told a DW correspondent in Accra.

Tight neck to neck race

The polls are expected to be a neck to neck race between incumbent president John Dramani Mahama, who’s seeking a second four-year term, and his closest rival Nana Akufo-Addo. Akufo-Addo, 72, a former foreign minister, is making this third and likely final run for the country’s top job.

Both have pledged to rebuilt Ghana’s battered economy, fight corruption and create jobs for the country’s unemployed. They also promise to solve the country’s persistent energy crisis that has led to a 10-percent-drop in economic growth between 2011 and 2015.

Both candidates commended Ghanaians for the conduct of the polls.

President Mahama speaking at a ralley in Accra
President Mahama is running for a second term of office

“I think Ghana’s democracy has matured. This election is going to consolidate that democracy further,” President Mahama told journalists after casting his vote in his northern home region of Bole.

‘I find the atmosphere quite calm’ – ex-president

Former president Jerry Rawlings echoed similar sentiments after casting his ballot at a polling station in Accra.

“I find the atmosphere quite calm and I hope it continues this way,” Rawlings, who left office in the year 2001, told reporters.

Election observers from Britain, the African Union and the West African economic bloc ECOWAS are monitoring the polls, together with more than 8,000 local observers.

“It is okay. These are some of the teething things, people trying to find out ‘I voted here, but now there is a longer queue’, that’s the most that we have seen. We don’t really think that there is a problem,’ local election observer Fred Deegbe told DW.

More than 70 volunteers at the Social Media Tracking Centre were digging through Ghana’s social networks across the day to detect hate speech, spreading of rumours or any election-related incidents.

Final results expected by Friday

“If there are some issues, we can raise the red flag and pass it onto the appropriate authorities,” the centre’s director Kwame Ahiagbenu told DW.

A polling agent holding a ballot paper with the faces of the candidates
Seven candidates are vying for the presidency

Many Ghanaian voters were hoping for a peaceful voting process after a supporter of President Mahama’s NPP party was beaten to death and six others critically wounded in a rare outburst of pre-election violence on Monday.

Last week, all seven presidential candidates had made a pledge to follow election rules and oppose violence. A heavy police and military presence at polling stations and major roads contributed to the peaceful conduct of the polls.

“We should use this particular day as a festival, as an occasion to enjoy ourselves. Even if we are going to retain our president or if we are going to elect new president, we are all one. One people, one country, one destiny,” voter Ken Addo told a DW correspondent in the capital Accra.

First results will be released on Thursday, with the final outcome expected on Friday.

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