Ghana’s president, John Dramani Mahama, won re-election yesterday in a tight vote that the losing candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, is still refusing to accept despite the declaration of Ghana’s electoral commission.
Akufo-Addo, 68, son of the former president and chief justice Edward Akufo-Addo, would not concede defeat because he claimed the vote was rigged. The accusation is a serious one in Ghana because the nation is considered a model of democracy in Africa.
Despite the complaints from Akufo-Addo and his New Patriotic Party, international observers have certified the fairness of the election—the sixth transparent vote in the country’s history. That is the most free and fair votes in this troubled region of West Africa.
“There were hiccups but not such that would grossly undermine the result of the election,” said former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who led the delegation from ECOWAS, the bloc representing nations in West Africa.
Mahama was made president in July after the unexpected death of John Atta Mills. Before becoming vice president in 2009, the 54-year-old Mahama served as a government minister and a member of parliament.
One of the main election problems identified by observers was with the biometric machines used to identify voters through their fingerprints. When the high-tech machines failed to work in many polling stations, officials had to extend voting into a second day—which Akufo-Addo’s party seized on as proof that the ruling party was trying to use the disorder to rig the election.
“This situation, if allowed to go unchallenged and uncorrected, would seriously damage the essence of the electoral process and the substance of democracy in Ghana,” the New Patriotic Party said in a draft statement that was emailed to reporters.
“To accept this result is to discredit democracy in Ghana and, in the process, distort the process of democratization in Africa. Therefore, the New Patriotic Party cannot accept the results of the presidential election as declared by the EC (election commission) this evening,” the statement said.
The chairman of the electoral commission, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, announced that Mahama had received 5.5 million votes, or 50.7 percent, while Akufo-Addo came in second with 5.2 million votes, or 47.7 percent. Akufo-Addo also lost the 2008 election by less than 1 percent, which certainly is adding to his bitterness over these results.
The nation sent armored tanks to surround Ghana’s electoral commission and police barricaded the road around the electoral offices.
Official were pleased to report that voter turnout was high—around 80 percent of the roughly 14 million registered voters cast ballots in Friday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
By contrast, in the last U.S. presidential election last month won by Barack Obama, just 57.5 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.
Ghanaians will be eagerly watching to see if Akufo-Addo will accept the results. The Ivory Coast, Ghana’s neighbor to the west, almost plunged into civil war last year when the election loser refused to accept defeat.
“We won, they are sore losers. They wanted (the electoral commission) to postpone announcement of the results and (the chairman) said there is no reason to postpone. There was no foundation for their allegations,” said Mahama’s presidential adviser, Tony Aidoo. He added that the opposition’s allegation of vote rigging “was a plan to create mayhem, and mayhem will come. … They had such high expectations of coming back to power.”
Police had to fire tear gas and stun guns to fight back opposition supporters who poured into the streets of Accra, calling on the national electoral body to carry out an audit, and asking them to withhold announcing final results until an investigation is completed. But after the results were announced, the capital was calm.
“Considering the closeness of the polls this error is very significant and goes to the heart of the credibility of the results. Indeed, we have enough concrete evidence to show that the 2012 presidential election was won by our candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo,” said Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, chairman of the opposition party.
Ahmed Issak Hassan, head of an observer mission from the South Africa-based Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, said that the election is a test not just for Ghana, but for the continent, which is trying to emerge from a checkered past of coups and civil wars.
“All of Africa was looking at Ghana to make sure that they live up to their reputation and their name of being a mature democracy,” he said.