High turnout in Ghana election

Frontrunners neck-and-neck as observers hail peaceful conduct of the poll.

    Ghanaians queued overnight to ensure they cast their ballot in Sunday's election [AFP]

    Waiting to vote

    Voters waited in their hundreds at some polling stations from early morning in the coastal capital Accra.

    Voting got under way at 07:00 GMT, with polling stations closing at 17:00 GMT.

    An estimated 12.4 million people registered to vote, equivalent to around half the country's population of 23 million.


    Ghanaians clamour for change

    Gamal Nkrumah, Africa affairs analyst and son of Ghana's first president Kwame, told Al Jazeera the west African nation has been a vibrant democracy for the past 15 years.

    He said Ghana had tremendous economc potential with no ethnic conflicts plaguing other African countries.

    "The fact that it's successful doesn't mean it doesn't have problems. Indeed the country sufffers from many ills," Nkrumah said.

    "But it is the first African country to gain independence and the rest of Africa is watching very keenly what goes on there politically. If it has succeeded then other countries hopefully can."

    Neck and neck

    The leading candidates remained neck and neck and analysts believe neither candidate will poll the 50 per cent plus one vote needed to avoid a run-off.

    There are eight candidates standing for election to succeed John Kufuor, the current president and leader of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), who is required by law to step down having served two terms.

    2004 results

    Presidential vote:
    John Kufuor (NPP) gets 52.5 per cent
    John Atta Mills (NDC) gets 44.5 per cent

    Parliamentary vote:
    NPP - 128 seats
    NDC - 94 seats
    People's National Convention - 4 seats
    Convention People's Party - 3 seats
    Independent - 1 seat

    But the real contest is between Nana Akufo-Addo, Kufuor's chosen successor, and John Atta Mills, leader of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).

    Kufuor won the 2004 presidential race after securing 52.5 per cent of the vote, while Mills, who also contested the previous election, got 44.5 per cent.

    Voters slept outside polling stations in an attempt to be among the first to cast their ballots.

    The ruling NPP is fighting the election on a continuity ticket, pointing to unprecedented economic growth of around six per cent - three times the global average.

    Despite foreign investment rising by 2000 per cent during Kufuor's two terms and exports more than doubling from $1.6bn in 2001 to $4.2bn in 2002, many Ghanians remain impoverished and infrastructure problems persist.

    Wages are low while much of the population, even in Accra, live with inadequate electricity.

    The opposition NDC is campaigning on a platform for change, saying it is time ordinary Ghanians reaped the benefits of economic success.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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