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Voting Underway in Ghana's Last Constituency

Voting is under way in a single electoral constituency in Ghana that could decide the nation's next leader. Ghanaian President John Kufuor is appealing for calm as his ruling party boycotts the delayed runoff vote over security concerns.

Voters in the remote Tain district went to the polls Friday in a delayed vote that could finally end Ghana's hard-fought, tightly-contested race to succeed President Kufuor.

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

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

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.

Ghana's ruling National Patriotic Party tried to block Friday's revoting in Tain, going to court to postpone the vote because of what it said were security concerns in the district. When that failed, the ruling party said it would not take part.

Election observers in Tain Friday said the district was calm, with hundreds of soldiers and police deployed to keep order. Representatives of the opposition National Democratic Congress were present at the polling station but there were no official observer from the ruling party.

President Kufuor says Ghanaians can count on security forces to remain neutral. In a statement read on national radio, the president appealed for calm until the final results are announced. He said it is important to meet the constitutional timetable of handing-over power January 7, so he is urging all stakeholders to yield to the authority of the electoral commissioner. President Kufuor said any outstanding issues can be settled later by due process.

Lawyers from his party are seeking a court order to prevent the electoral commission from announcing any more results, but that case has been adjourned until next week when the winner may well be known.

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. Akufo-Addo won the first round of balloting. 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. 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.

Whoever wins will rule with a decidedly different parliament as the ruling party lost its legislative majority in the first round of voting.

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