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Ghana's Ruling-Party Boycotting Friday Vote

Ghana's ruling party wants to stop Friday's voting in a single constituency that could decide the nation's next president. Ghana's opposition candidate is holding a slight lead over his ruling-party rival.

Ghana's ruling National Patriotic Party says it will not take part in Friday's vote in the Tain constituency because its supporters there are being intimidated.

The party is seeking a court order to have the vote postponed. Party spokesman Arthur Kennedy says the security situation in the western district is not conducive to a free and fair election. If officials go ahead with the poll, he says the ruling party will boycott the vote.

A shortage of ballot papers during last Sunday's run-off forced the scheduled revoting in Tain because Ghana's Electoral Commission said it could not name a winner without those results.

With nearly nine million ballots cast, just over 23,000 votes separate opposition candidate John Atta-Mills and ruling-party candidate Nana Akufo-Addo. So the 53,000 registered voters in Tain could well decide Ghana's next president.

With all but the Tain votes counted, opposition candidate Atta-Mills has 50.13 percent of the vote. The ruling party's Akufo-Addo has 49.87 percent. During the first round of presidential balloting December 7, Atta-Mills narrowly won the Tain constituency, edging out Akufo-Addo by fewer than 1,300 votes.

Overall, Akufo-Addo won that first round. But because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the votes cast, he and Atta-Mills went head-to-head in a second round that was to decide the winner.

Now the contest hangs on the results of revoting in Tain and the Electoral Commission's investigation of allegations of vote fraud by both the ruling party and the opposition National Democratic Congress. The electoral commission says its examination of alleged fraud in the Ashanti and Volta districts will be factored into the final outcome.

The commission has given no indication about when those investigations might be completed or when a winner might be announced.

The ruling party's Akufo-Addo is a 64-year-old former attorney general and foreign minister who campaigned on the strength of improvements in Ghana's economy, health care and infrastructure during the administration of President John Kufuor.

Opposition candidate Atta-Mills is a 64-year-old tax law professor who campaigned against the ruling party saying it is time for a change after what he calls eight years of miserable failure.

Whoever wins will govern with a decidedly different parliament, as the ruling party lost its legislative majority in the first round, dropping 21 seats to finish with 107 of the 228 seats in parliament. The opposition picked up 20 seats to finish with 114 seats.

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