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Ghana Downplays Fraud Concerns for Tuesday's Elections

In Ghana, the electoral commission is downplaying concerns of potential for fraud in Tuesday's presidential and parliamentary elections. The opposition is questioning the accuracy of voter registration rolls. The presidential election is expected to be close, but the incumbent is favored to win.

Although four men are vying for the position of president, the race is expected to be close between current President John Kufuor from the New Patriotic Party and the John Evans Atta Mills of the opposition National Democratic Congress.

The two men faced off in the 2000 election, and the vote went to a second round. President Kufuor is campaigning on his record in office. His opponent is campaigning for change.

Campaign posters and flags for the candidates are strewn throughout Accra. The slogan for President Kufuor is, "So Far, So Good," while Mr. Atta Mills, is, "For a Better Ghana."

In addition, eight parties are vying for 230 seats in parliament.

The opposition National Democratic Congress is the party founded by former President Jerry Rawlings, who ruled the west African nation for nearly two decades, before creating a multi-party state, and implementing a two-term limit for the presidency.

Members of the opposition party, attending an open forum in the capital, Accra, expressed concern about the possibility for fraud, and questioned the accuracy of voter registration rolls.

A leading member of the party, Tony Aidoo, told the chairman of the Electoral Commission that the number of registered voters in various constituencies far exceeded the provisional numbers registered earlier this year.

"So far as the NDC is concerned, we have identified almost 20 constituencies with a final count of votes that we believe do not represent the actual votes recorded by the Electoral Commissioner on the basis of information released to us both in March when the registration exercise was completed, and currently containing the sum total of voters who were supposed to have taken their voter register cards," he said.

The Electoral Commission in Ghana dismissed the concerns, saying there has been transparency in reporting voter registrations.

Electoral Commission Chairman Kwadwo Afari-Gyan says he is not surprised by the opposition's accusations.

"These rumors are part of our election landscape all the time," he said. "This is not the first time, and when the New Patriotic Party was in opposition, they had more of the rumors. Now that the National Democratic Congress is in the opposition, they have more of the rumors."

Mr. Afari-Gyan says he is happy that the Electoral Commission was able to present the voter registration to the political parties two weeks before the elections, in order to deal with any disputes.

There are more than 10 million registered voters this year, up from six million in 2000. International observers will be on hand to help ensure free and fair elections.

But there is concern that there could be incidents of violence, mainly in the northern district of Yendi, which has been divided along tribal and party lines for more than two years.