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Polls Open for Ghana's Parliament, Presidential Elections


Voting has started in Ghana, for the fourth election since the introduction of the multiparty system, in 1992.

Lines formed early at many of the 21,000 polling stations, throughout Ghana. At stake is the presidency and 230 sears in parliament.

Although incumbent President John Kufuor, of the New Patriotic Party, is expected to secure a second and final four-year term, there also is strong support for his nearest rival, John Evans Atta Mills, of the National Democratic Congress.

A former soldier at one polling station, Peter Kotey, says he woke up three hours before the polls opened, to cast a vote for the main opposition party. "We need a change. Before the year 2000, we had a change and then things had gotten deeper, deeper and deeper," he said. "The economy is down so much that there is no money in the pocket."

During the last elections, in 2000, President Kufuor faced off against Atta Mills, a former vice president under Jerry Rawlings - gaining victory in a second run-off round.

The economy is a major concern in the world's second-largest cocoa-producing nation. Although this year's production is the highest Ghana has had in years, many opposition supporters say it is not benefiting all of the people.

Many voters stood in line at the polling stations, wearing shirts representing their party colors. Those in favor of current president wear red, white and blue. Opposition supporters wear red, green and black.

Just one day before the elections, representatives of the opposition party disputed the registered voter lists saying the elections would be flawed.

However, a presiding officer at one polling station, Ernest Dameh, says they have learned from the last three elections and have implemented measures to guarantee transparency. "The first table they register. So, before your name is ticked, your ID card had to be inspected and then from there you move to the second table for the electoral stain," he said. "The stain is there to indicate that you have voted so that there will be no second voting."

International observers from the African Union, the European Union, the United States and the Economic Community of West African States are visiting polling stations to discourage vote fraud.

There are more than 10 million registered voters, this year - up from only six million in 2000. More than half of Ghana's people are registered to vote.

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