World Leaders Congratulate Ghana on Democratic Election

World leaders are congratulating Ghana on successful democratic elections that saw the opposition candidate defeat his ruling-party rival by fewer than 41,000 votes.  

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon congratulated all of Ghana's candidates, the electoral commission and Ghanaian voters for the peaceful and orderly resolution of last month's elections, hailing it as a democratic achievement.

President-elect John Atta-Mills withstood two rounds of voting and a special election in a single constituency last Friday to claim just more than 50 percent of the vote, narrowly edging ruling-party rival Nana Akufo-Addo.

Mr. Atta-Mills takes power Wednesday when President John Kufuor steps down after eight years in power.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown telephoned the president-elect to congratulate him on his victory.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that under Mr. Atta-Mills' leadership, he is convinced that Ghana will "make more progress, respecting the institutions and liberties as the entire international community is watching." 

Many in Africa offered their own praise for the peaceful nature of the vote and the inclusiveness promised by the president-elect.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Mr. Atta-Mills' victory and the conduct of the people of Ghana "provides a rare example of democracy at work in Africa."

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said the Ghanaian people have shown their appreciation for democracy in an election that bears testimony to respect for good governance in Africa.

That is particularly striking given last month's military coup in Guinea and August's overthrow of the first freely-elected leader in Mauritania.

S. Tarnue Sherman is Chairman of the Political Science Department at the University of Liberia.  He said Ghana is a torchbearer for African democracy.

"If you watch the reaction to the recent coup in Guinea, you will find out that Africans are not too much receptive to military take-over again.  People are saying, look, the solution to democracy is not taking up arms.  Let us go through the ballot. And this is what is happening now today, which we saw in Ghana," he said.

Professor Sherman said Ghana's role as the birthplace of the Pan-African movement and its continuing commitment to democracy is a source of pride for all Africans.

"This shows to the world that democracy can also flourish in Africa, especially in West Africa where you have so many military coups and things.  So Ghana has a special place in West Africa and Africa at large," said Sherman.

Declaring victory Saturday, Ghana's 64-year-old president-elect said it is time to unite the country after a hard-fought election and promised those who did not support him that they would face no recriminations.

"I want to assure all Ghanaians that I will be president for all.  There will be no discrimination," he said.

Mr. Atta-Mills not only captured the presidency, but led his National Democratic Congress party to big gains in Ghana's parliament, winning 114 of the 228 seats.  


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