Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ghana News Bulletin: Controversy Looms Over Delayed Election Results

Controversy over Ashanti votes


As NPP & NDC boycott declaration of results

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thousands of supporters of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) yesterday besieged the premises of the Electoral Commission (EC) after the leadership of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the NDC disagreed over the results of some constituencies in Ashanti region.

Media reports had earlier in the day put the Presidential Candidate of the NDC, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills ahead of the NPP’s Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo based on certified results from some of the constituencies.

With 223 out of 230 constituency certified results declared so far, the law Professor leads with 4, 414, 419 votes representing 50.64%. His challenger, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo trails him with 4, 307,120 representing 49.36%.

Meanwhile, Issa Alhassan reports from Kumasi that Ashanti Region, widely known to be the stronghold of the ruling New Patriotic Party experienced an uneasy calm throughout yesterday, as results of the presidential run-off trickled in slowly via the various local radio stations.

Many residents, who until yesterday morning were very optimistic of the chances of the NPP, after the party recorded astronomical figures in certain polling stations in some constituencies in the metropolis, recoiled to their shelves in anxiety, as early results which trickled in from over 216 constituencies out of 230 indicated that the NDC flagbearer, Prof. Mills, was leading in popular votes.

Many residents continued to count their losses and ponder over the possibility that the ruling party may not be able to retain power.

Most of the constituents were shocked to see the NPP lose the elections to the opposition NDC, in the face of the huge electoral successes recorded at Manhyia, Bantama, Pankronu, Subin, Nhyiaeso, Asokwa and Suame constituencies.

Some of them, however, still remained cautiously optimistic considering the fact that there were a number of constituencies in the NPP’s strongholds in both the Ashanti and Eastern Regions which were yet to be declared.

Planned events and programmes by sympathizers of the NPP to mark victory have thus been nipped in the bud, as shock is written all over the faces of constituents. Nationwide provisional results of the second round polls made public by radio stations in the city, as of Monday, placed Prof. Mills ahead in percentage and popular votes, a situation which is quite different from what was witnessed in the first round of the December 7 elections when Nana Akufo Addo was leading.

Whereas the NPP was recording impressive gains in some popular constituencies such as Manhyia, Subin and Asokwa constituencies, the NDC had also made significant improvement in the Volta, Northern and Brong Ahafo Regions, heightening fears and speculations of many residents that the National Democratic Congress might come back.

The Ashanti Region was identified as having held the key to NPP’s victory in the second round of the elections, after the ruling party attributed its inability to record a first round victory to the low turn out of voters in the region. This compelled the ruling party to embark on an intensive house-to-house campaign dubbed “Fre Wo Nua”, which literally means call your brother to go and vote on December 28.

While this campaign seem to have paid off, considering the increase of voting percentage from 73 to 83 percent respectively in the first and second round voting, the NDC once again put up a splendid performance in the NPP stronghold, resulting in the increase of percentage of votes for Prof. John Evans Attah Mills.

When The Chronicle stormed the city on Monday to interact with voters and seek their views on the outcome of the elections, most of them expressed shock at the turn of events, and brooded over what would become of them when the NPP fails to win.

A shop keeper at Adum, who gave his name as “Mugabe”, said he felt let down and terrified about the unfolding events in the elections. “I felt very worried and terribly shocked when I heard results that were coming in and I asked myself how come the NPP failed to maintain its lead as happened in the first round.”

Samuel Agbowode also reports from Ho that there were jubilations in the town as taxis and motorbikes tooted their horns to signify victory for the NDC, while others were spotted singing victory songs.

Earlier in the day, Ho remained calm as the results of the presidential run-off was being announced even though Prof. Atta Mills was ahead of Nana Akufo-Addo by a slim margin.

The situation in the Ho municipality was characterized with fear and anxiety, which saw business activities going on smoothly as some of the people quietly discussed the trend of the election with the fear that the NDC ‘s Prof. Mills would not win for the third time, while others were hopeful that this time the NDC would win.

Some of the people who expressed their views on the election results and the possible positions of the candidates said they were sure that the NDC would emerge the victor due to the fact that Mills was leading the race. A businessman, Mr. Joshua Narh, who spoke to The Chronicle, said the NDC Candidate would win at all cost because Prof. Mills had suffered for too long.

He continued that the Ho Township and the municipality remained quiet, due to the fact that the people would not like to start the jubilation at the time the out- come of the election still remained unclear as to who would become the next President of the country.

“You are a media man, just wait and see how we will jubilate after the declaration of the final results.”

A teacher in Ho, Madam Theresa Kpeyibor, who also expressed the hope of the NDC winning the elections, said the party, after been given the mandate to govern the country, should be prepared to meet the socio-economic challenges confronting the country as a result of the world economic difficulties.

She, however, reminded the NDC that in case the party was given the opportunity to administer the affairs of the country, the party should be able to satisfy the needs of the people, as the expectations of the people were very high and anything short of that would be a disappointment to them.

Madam Kpeyibor noted that even though the supporters of the party would jubilate if the party wins the elections, they should understand that the presidency rotates and that when one party gets the chance to win the elections, then it requires more responsibility.

To her, all that was important was to ensure a peaceful environment that would promote economic activities to improve on the lives of the people.

Some of the people who pleaded anonymity said even if the NDC wins the election, it would not mean much to them unless they see some improvement in their socio economic lives, which would be better than what the NPP was doing.

They said, the most important aspect of elections was to promote development and anything short of that would not be tolerated, noting that Ghanaians should learn to vote, based on issues of development rather than ethnic, tribal and religious affiliations.

Ghana knife-edge result delayed

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 area, where the poll was delayed, will now vote on Friday.

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

The BBC correspondent in Ghana says there are fears violence could erupt.

New Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate Mr Akufo-Addo gained the most votes in the first round earlier this month but did not pass the 50% threshold needed for outright victory.

Electoral commission chairman Kwadwo Afari-Gyan said opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate Mr Atta Mills had won 50.13% of the vote, while Mr Akufo-Addo had taken 49.87%.

This means just 23,055 votes divide the two candidates, out of a total cast of some 9m.

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

Warning shots

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

According to the Daily Guide newspaper, the ruling party had accused electoral officials in Tain of stealing about 1,820 ballot papers, which they claimed were given to the opposition.

The district has some 53,000 registered voters.

The privately-owned Joy FM radio station reported that during the first round of the vote in Tain earlier this month, 30,000 electors turned out and awarded a narrow victory to Mr Atta Mills.

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 besieged for much of Tuesday 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.

Ice cream

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

Mr 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 its stronghold of the Ashanti region.

It is understood turn-out in one area was recorded at 99% - 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 Mr Atta Mills.

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

Monitors hope Ghana's poll can help salvage the tarnished image of constitutional democracy in Africa, after flawed elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe and military coups in Mauritania in August and in Guinea last week.

The stakes have been raised in these elections because Ghana has just found oil, which is expected to start generating revenue in 2010.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/12/30 18:18:26 GMT

Ghana: Former President Rawlings Calls for Calm

30 December 2008

Accra — Former President Jerry Rawlings has called on Ghanaians not to be despondent over the delay in the announcement of the results of the December 28 presidential election runoff.

In a statement issued in Accra on Tuesday President Rawlings said: The change we have worked for is at hand. Let us not allow ourselves to be unduly despondent but keep faith and hope alive.

The former President said he had been compelled to break his silence on the announcement of the results due to an avalanche of messages, mostly by text; he had received since last Sunday.

Everyone from the media, election observers and the general populace have observed the process and it is clear who has won, he said.

Former President Rawlings said Ghana’s democracy had evolved considerably and the smooth transition in 2000, which saw his government hand over peacefully to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was a good example of how far the process had evolved.

Ghanaians made their voices known through their vote on December 28 and we have the assurance that the Electoral Commission will declare the verdict today, he said.

The Former President called on the security agencies to remain steadfast and not to undermine their conscience and professionalism but to uphold the will of the people.

Ghana: Religious Heads and Civil Society Groups Call for Restraint

30 December 2008

Accra — The coalition of civil society groups and some eminent religious leaders on Tuesday called on the leaders and supporters of National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP) to remain calm and allow the Electoral Commission (EC) to do its work as it prepares to declare the results of the December 28 presidential election runoff.

The group said it had been in touch with the Chief of Defence Staff, who had given them assurance of the neutrality of the military and their loyalty to protect the State.

Peter Cardinal Appiah Turkson, speaking on behalf of the group at a press conference in Accra appealed to media houses to exercise circumspection in their reportage and to reflect on the implications of their work in "these rather sensitive moments."

He said following reports of disagreement over results from some constituencies late last night at the EC Head Office, which turned into rumours, the country had been plunged into a State of anxiety.

Cardinal Turkson said in an effort to seek clarification and offer advice they met with Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, NDC Presidential Candidate and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, NPP Presidential Candidate, and leaders of the two parties at separate meeting to resolve the crisis.

He said the two leaders also engaged the Chairman of the EC on the matter to discuss the way forward.

Cardinal Turkson said there was confirmation that both Presidential Candidates had affirmed the ECs mandate to finalize and release the result.

Additionally, he said, the candidates agreed to ask their supporters to be calm and that they had recognized the need for dialogue at the highest level.

The coalition is made up of the Christian Council; Catholic Bishops Conference; Civic Forum Initiative and other eminent persons such as Maulvi Wahab Adams, Head of the Ammadiyya Mission in Ghana.

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