December 31, 2008

Ghana delays presidential run-off result till Friday

The electoral commissioner of Ghana has delayed the result of Sunday‘s knife-edge presidential run-off until Friday.

Results in the Ashanti and Volta regions have been disputed and the Tain region, where the poll could not go ahead, will vote on Friday.

Officials said the votes between the opposition‘s John Atta Mills and ruling party‘s Nana Akufo-Addo were so close one result could decide the outcome.

The BBC correspondent in Ghana reported there were fears violence could erupt.

New Patriotic Party candidate, Akufo-Addo, gained the most votes in the first round earlier this month but did not pass the 50 per cent threshold needed for outright victory.

Electoral commission Chairman, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, said opposition National Democratic Congress candidate, Atta Mills had won 50.13 per cent of the vote, while Akufo-Addo had taken 49.87 per cent.

This means just 23,055 votes divide the two candidates, out of a total cast of some nine million.

”Results are so close that the result of the Tain constituency could affect the eventual winner,” Afari-Gyan said.

He said the results covered all 230 constituencies, except Tain in the Brong Ahafo region, which was unable to vote on Sunday due to a shortage of voting materials.

The commissioner, who has been stuck in behind-closed-doors wrangling with both parties in the capital Accra, said they would also use the delay to audit the disputed results.

The electoral commission headquarters was earlier besieged by thousands of NDC supporters demanding their candidate be declared the winner.

Armed police and soldiers backed by water cannon trucks and an armoured personnel carrier kept the protesters behind barricades and at one point fired warning shots.

As tensions rose, party officials handed out ice cream and water to the crowds to calm them down.

Atta Mills had earlier claimed victory, but the NPP said this was premature.

Shops closed early on Tuesday, with businessmen fearing that there could be looting once the result is announced.

The opposition has been disputing results awarded to the governing party from five constituencies in the Ashanti region.

It is understood turnout in one area was recorded at 99 per cent - said by election experts to be unheard of - while there were also complaints dead people, children and foreign nationals had been listed among voters.

The NPP, meanwhile, said there had been widespread intimidation of its election agents in the Volta region and results from these areas would be challenged.

International observers have given the poll a preliminary clean bill of health and urged both candidates to accept the results.

Some 12.5 million people were eligible to vote in the election - the fifth since Ghana‘s return to democracy in 1992.

President John Kufuor is standing down having served two consecutive terms.

In the two previous elections he defeated Atta Mills.

Atta Mills served as vice-president under former leader Jerry Rawlings.

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