DAKAR, SENEGAL —
Vote counting is underway, in some cases by flashlight, in Ghana's presidential and parliamentary elections. Several polling stations in the capital extended their hours Friday following logistical problems with voter materials and the biometric voter registration system.
Polls were scheduled to close at 5 p.m. local time in Ghana. However, observers say delays in delivering voting materials and malfunctioning biometric voter verification machines meant that long lines of voters were still waiting at several polling stations around the capital.
A VOA reporter at one such polling station talked to voters who had been waiting since 8:30 a.m.
Ghana's General Election
President elected to a 4-year term
If no candidate wins more than 50%, a run-off election is held
275 Parliament members are elected to 4-year terms
Members elected by simple majority in single-seat constituencies
14 million Ghanaians are eligible to vote
This is the first time Ghana has used biometric voter registration.
The electoral commission issued a statement calling on voters to be patient and assuring them that voters in line by 5 p.m. local time would be able to cast their ballots.
Ghanaians began lining up outside polling stations as early as 3 a.m. on Friday in the capital, Accra, to vote for a president and members of parliament.
Hundreds were in line at many polling stations by 7 a.m., when voting was officially set to begin.
"It's my right to vote so that is why I'm here, to select my president, the person who will come and control the country and lead the country more forward," stated voter Razak Imoro. "It's all about development."
The current president, John Dramani Mahama, faces seven challengers in a bid to win his first outright term. Mahama became president in July after the death of President John Atta Mills.
Analysts say Mahama and lead opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, and their parties, are running neck-and-neck.
Key issues in this election are corruption, education and how best to manage the oil and resource wealth of one of world's fastest growing economies.
Voters told VOA it all comes down to who they think can best use this wealth to improve their daily lives.
Voter and father of three Jonathan Akrong said the debate over whether to make senior high school, or SHS, free is a deciding factor for him. "I'll be voting based on issues of the candidates, what they've brought out and, I mean, somebody who has given out very intelligent issues as far as the governing of the nation is concerned," he said. "Ghana needs quality, progressive education and not a free SHS for now. We don't have the infrastructure base."
Ghana is one of Africa's most stable democracies. This is the sixth time the country is voting since moving to multi-party democracy in 1992. Previous elections were peaceful and were judged to have been free and fair.
Ghana's law stipulates that results must be announced within 72 hours. However, an electoral commission official told VOA they expect to release results sooner.
If no presidential candidate wins a clear majority, a run-off election is planned for December 28th.
Laura Burke contributed to this report from Accra.