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December 06, 2012

Ghana Votes for President, New Parliament

by Laura Burke

Ghanaians head to the polls to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections on Friday, and analysts say the top two presidential candidates are virtually tied.  Two major parties ended official campaigning with large rallies Wednesday in Accra.

Ghana’s capital was packed with political supporters in trucks and floats Wednesday as campaigning wrapped up.

Both major parties held massive final rallies in the nation's capital, with thousands singing, dancing and cheering dressed in their party’s colors.

​​​Current President John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) party poked at his rival, opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo, without mentioning his name.

“Ghana needs a president who is a peacemaker," he said. "Ghana needs a president who is humble and modest.  Ghana needs a president who is not arrogant.  Ghana needs a president who eschews violence and above all, Ghana needs a president who is a unifier."

Starting with the first multiparty democratic elections in 1992, Ghana has held a total of five peaceful polls.

Eight candidates are on this year's presidential ballot, but recent voter surveys say the race will come down to the two top candidates.

​​Mahama, who took over as president when John Atta Mills died in July, said the government has done everything within its power to make this a peaceful election.

"We have given the electoral commission all the money it requested for this election," he said. "We have equipped the security forces with vehicles, with communications equipment, to be able to police this election.  So there is no reason why we are not going to have a peaceful election, or a successful election, unless there are some evil forces that are planning to unleash evil on this country.”

Soon after Mahama finished speaking, his rival stepped onto the stage in downtown Accra.

​​The leader of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Akufo-Addo has promised to make senior high school free,  and said he will modernize Ghana's economy, one of the fastest growing on the continent.

"We have told the Ghanaian people that the NPP is determined to transform the economy of our country, make it a modern economy, that will bring jobs to our young men and women and make them full participating citizens in the new economy we are going to build," he said.

Akufo-Addo accused the ruling NDC of corruption and incompetence.

"We are going to show them a red card on Friday.  We are going to get rid of this corrupt, non-performing, vindictive government, the worst government of the fourth republic of our country," he said.

However, supporters of the NDC said they Mahama as a person and think he will maintain peace and stability.  The center-left NDC party is favored by working class voters.

Nelson Glover thinks the NDC is going to help ordinary Ghanaians, especially the youth.

"NDC understand our issues.  They understand the way we live and they don’t just come up with any plan without thinking.  And they think about the youth, long-term planning.  Something like youth in agriculture [...].  It’s a good idea to me because I love farming, so if I go to my home town then I can start it over there.  And they are giving us tools.  Let’s say you are a carpenter, they will provide you with tools.  So we think that is a laudable idea from the government," said Glover.

NPP supporters, however, say Ghana has not developed fast enough under the NDC and they accuse the ruling party of corruption.  Kojo Mabwa said he will vote for Akufo-Addo.

"The man have a big vision for Ghana.  He said he can do free education.  They say we can’t do, but we can do!  There is money… The NDC they have nothing for us, they have nothing.  They lost.  They are misusing our money," he said.

If no candidate wins an absolute majority in Friday's vote, a run-off will be held on December 28.