Ghanaians flock to polls in tight election
Ghanaians flocked to the polls Sunday to cast their ballots in a two-horse presidential race that will decide who leads one of Africa's most stable democracies into the oil era, dpa reported.
Polling stations across the country saw large queues as voters chose between eight candidates, with the two main contenders - Nana Akufo- Addo for the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and John Evans Atta Mills for the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) - running neck- and-neck.
Over 12 million people were registered to vote in the presidential election and simultaneous parliamentary elections.
Voters were choosing a replacement for John Kufuor, who must step down in January after serving two terms - the constitutional limit.
Some reports suggested the NDC had notched up an early lead. Full results are expected within 72 hours.
Most analysts believe that a run-off on December 28 looks likely.
While Ghana has largely avoided election troubles in recent years, the closeness of the race has led some organizations to warn that the violent scenes that followed elections in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria this year could be repeated in Ghana.
The Accra-based Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) said in a recent study that the potential for violence was widespread. But despite the warnings, the elections went off peacefully.
Some NDC officials complained of irregularities at certain polling stations, but said they were still confident of victory.
The European Union had an election monitoring force in place, as did many local organizations. Police were also monitoring potential flashpoints.
Kufuor has revived the Ghanaian economy by bringing pro-market reforms and political stability. Economic growth has been strong, and the NPP is saying it should be given the chance to continue its work.
However, despite the growth and the fact that Ghana is the second- largest cocoa grower in the world and Africa's second-biggest producer of gold, there is still widespread poverty among ordinary Ghanians.
The NDC points to this, saying change is due.
Both main parties are promising good governance when it comes to revenue from newly-discovered oil, due to come onstream in late 2010.
Ghana's National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) expects 120,000 barrels per day initially, with that figure rising to 250,000 barrels a day within two years.
Oil has proven to be as much of a curse as a blessing for many African nations, with countries such as Nigeria facing constant accusations of graft and attacks by militant groups, who say local people do not benefit from the oil industry.