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Ghana Inaugurates New President

Tax law professor John Atta-Mills is Ghana's new president. The former opposition leader won a closely-contested election to succeed outgoing President John Kufuor.

Ghanaians started arriving at Accra's Independence Square before dawn to find a spot to see the inauguration of their new leader. It is the second time in a decade that Ghana has peacefully passed power between its two largest political parties.

Mr. Atta-Mills won election in his third try at the presidency, withstanding two rounds of voting and a special election in a single constituency to defeat ruling-party rival Nana Akufo-Addo by fewer than 41,000 votes out of more than nine million ballots cast.

Chief Justice Georgina Woode administered the oath of office to the 64-year-old tax law professor who was dressed in a local kente cloth of the national colors - red, green and yellow.

President Atta-Mills then raised the symbolic State Sword and Ghana's military provided a 21-gun salute.

Mr. Atta-Mills not only captured the presidency but led his party to big gains in parliament, ending the ruling party's legislative majority by winning 114 of the 228 seats in Ghana's parliament. The new legislature also took office Wednesday, electing Ghana's first female speaker, former Supreme Court justice Joyce Bamford-Addo.

President Atta-Mills is a former national tax commissioner who served as vice president to Jerry Rawlings who came to power in a coup 27 years ago. Mr. Rawlings introduced some economic and political reforms before handing power over to President Kufuor in 2001.

Mr. Atta-Mills is from Ghana's central region. He studied law at London's School of Oriental and African Studies and at Stanford Law School in California as a Fulbright scholar. He is an avid swimmer and played on Ghana's national field hockey team. He and first lady Ernestina Naadu Mills have a 19-year-old son.

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