Thursday, January 01, 2009

Ghana News Update: No Winner Yet in Close Presidential Run-off; Nigerian Leader Warns Against Losing Democratic Culture

No Winner yet: Tain Constituency To Decide On January 2

Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan
Ghana Daily Graphic

Tain, a constituency in the Brong-Ahafo Region with 56,000 registered voters, is now the battleground where the close presidential race between Professor John Evans Atta Mills and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo will finally be decided on Friday.

A calm and relaxed Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), made the announcement yesterday, indicating that in last Sunday’s run-off between the two, Professor Mills had 50.13 per cent of the votes, as against Nana Akufo-Addo’s 49.87 per cent.

The announcement defused the nation-wide tension that had followed Sunday’s run-off and signalled that for the third time the EC would attempt to pick the winner in a presidential election which began on December 7, 2008.

Although the National Democratic Congress’s (NDC’s) Prof. Mills came first with 4,501,466 votes, as against the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP’s) Nana Akufo-Addo’s 4,478,411 after the re-run which took place on December 28, Dr Afari-Gyan declined to name a winner as a result of the outstanding election in Tain where voting in the run-off could not be held in all the 144 polling stations because of a pending protest.

Explaining why voting in Tain could not take place last Sunday, an official of the EC told the Daily Graphic in Sunyani that the situation was occasioned by a protest from representatives of the NPP in the constituency to the effect that the regional office of the EC had not supplied the required number of booklets for voting.

They alleged further that the EC officials had hidden some of the ballot booklets for no apparent reason, a claim the EC officials vehemently denied and insisted that there was no shortage of the ballot papers.

The EC Chairman described the circumstances as being beyond the control of the commission and scheduled voting there for Friday, January 2, 2009.

The results he announced, therefore, came from 229 out of the 230 constituencies throughout the country.

Giving the reasons the commission could not announce a winner at a press conference held in Accra, Dr Afari-Gyan said because of the closeness of the results, it was necessary for the EC to conduct the election in Tain, since results from there could make a difference.

The EC Chairman also indicated that the commission was going to conduct investigations into allegations of electoral irregularities in Kumasi, in particular, and some parts of the Ashanti Region, as well as the Volta Region, saying that both the NDC and the NPP had made some allegations against each other.

He said the NDC, for its part, had produced evidence on the alleged irregularities but the EC was yet to receive any evidence from the ruling party.

Earlier, before the announcement of the results, media personnel from all walks of life had waited for more than four hours for the arrival of the Chairman of the EC.

On many occasions during the waiting period some police officers came round to do some recce where the chairman and the other commissioners would sit and on each occasion their presence drew the media personnel back to the hall.

Yesterday’s announcement has made Tain the ‘king maker’ of the next administration.

In the December 7 presidential election in the constituency, Prof Mills polled 16,211 votes, representing 50.75 per cent, as against Nana Akufo-Addo’s 14,935, which represented 46.75 per cent.

Speaking to the media shortly after the announcement, the Chairman of the NPP, Mr Peter Mac Manu, said the people of Tain should not be disenfranchised in the election but should be allowed to cast their ballots to determine who won the presidency.

“In elections, anything can happen and we all have to wait for Friday, which is just around the corner, for the people of Tain to exercise their franchise to decide the winner,” he added.

Mr Mac Manu said the NPP would be more than prepared to concede defeat to the NDC should the results go in favour of the NDC.

However, he added that the NPP was highly optimistic of a massive victory in Tain to turn the table in its favour.

On whether the NPP was going to produce evidence of allegations of malpractice against the NDC in the Volta Region, he said, “We are going to compile the evidence to present to the EC as soon as possible.”

Leading members of the NDC, including Dr Tony Aidoo, Alhaji Huudu Yahaya, among others, left the hall before the announcement was made.

Story by Lucy Adoma Yeboah & Charles Benoni Okine

Scramble for decisive Ghana votes

Tensions were high on Tuesday as NDC supporters demanded the results

Opposition candidate John Atta Mills is heading for the Ghanaian constituency which will decide the closely fought presidential run-off.

The remote western constituency of Tain will vote on Friday with the presidential contest on a knife-edge.

It has some 54,000 voters, with Mr Atta Mills leading his rival Nana Akufo-Addo by just 23,055 votes nationwide.

Both men's supporters have complained of fraud but the electoral commission says no evidence has yet been produced.

"They have not filed any appeal in the strict sense of the word," Kwadwo Sarfo-Kantanka from the electoral commission told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.


John Atta Mills: 4,501,466 votes (50.13%)
Nana Akufo-Addo: 4,478,411 votes (49.87%)
229 out of 230 constituencies
Source: Electoral Commission of Ghana

The announcement of the winner has been delayed until after results come in from Tain and the allegations of rigging have been investigated.

Mr Sarfo-Kantanka said he thought the result would be declared late on Friday.

Ghana is one of Africa's most stable democracies, with peaceful handovers of power.

But the close race, fraud allegations and the increased stakes with the discovery of oil off the coast have raised fears of possible violence.

Police 'saturation'

Mr Atta Mills' spokesman Mohammed Ayariga told BBC News that there was unlikely to be a big rally in Tain, as it was such a remote area and there was not much time to organise one.

He said that former President Jerry Rawlings - under whom Mr Atta Mills served as vice-president - had already travelled to the constituency to lead the final campaign.

Security is being tightened in Tain ahead of the crucial poll, police chief Patrick Kwarteng Acheampong told the local TV3 station.

"We intend to saturate these polling stations with quite a sizable number of police officers backed by our military counterparts as reserves," he said.

Mr Atta Mills won the area in the first round of voting on 7 December so his National Democratic Congress (NDC) is confident of victory.

"It's a done deal... this Tain election is an academic exercise," party national organiser Samuel Ofosu Amposo told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He called on Mr Akufo-Addo to concede defeat.

But the governing New Patriotic Party says the outcome is still too close to call, especially with the possibility of some results being disqualified because of the fraud claims.

"In any re-run, people can change their minds, they can vote any way they want," said NPP general secretary Nana Ohene Ntow.

The NPP said its election agents had been chased away from polling stations in the Volta region, making results there open to question.

The NDC complained of alleged irregularities in the Ashanti region - a stronghold for the governing party.

Voting problems

Electoral commission chairman Kwadwo Afari-Gyan on Tuesday said Mr Atta Mills had won 50.13% of the vote, while Mr Akufo-Addo had taken 49.87%, with just the Tain result outstanding.


Age: 64
Party: National Democratic Congress
Executive posts: Vice-president 1997-2000
Profession: University professor
Hobbies: Hockey, swimming
Family: Married with one child

Age: 64
Party: New Patriotic Party
Executive posts: Attorney general 2001-03; foreign affairs minister 2003-07
Profession: Lawyer
Family: Married with five children

This means 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 effect the eventual winner," Mr Afari-Gyan said.

Tain, in the Brong Ahafo region, 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.

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.

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.

‘Don’t Undermine Democratic Culture’, Says Nigerian President

Nigerian President Musa Yar’Adua has advised Ghanaians not to undermine the democratic culture which has been nurtured so far in the country.

He said post-election events in Ghana would be the real test of the country's democratic experience, noting that any disagreement among the political players should not be at the expense of the ordinary people.

The Security Adviser to the Nigerian leader, General Abdulahi Sarki Mukthar, who conveyed President Yar’Adua’s message to President Kufuor at the Golden Jubilee House in Accra yesterday, said the interest of the Nigerian leader in the political dynamics in Ghana was premised on the fact that events in the country could have serious repercussions in the entire West African sub-region and the rest of Africa.

General Mukthar said President Yar’Adua, the current Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was interested in the unfolding political development and dynamics of the electoral process in Ghana.

The Security Adviser was accompanied by Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, and officials of the Nigerian Foreign Ministry.

He said it was the view of the Nigerian leader that in any contest there would certainly be a winner and a loser, saying that whoever won should show modesty, humility and leadership, while the loser who felt aggrieved should use the appropriate means to seek redress.

He said he had been sent by the Nigerian leader to hold discussions with President Kufuor on post-election events which would be the real test of Ghana’s democratic experience.

General Mukthar said what was needed at the moment was understanding and tolerance among the political players and their followers.

Receiving the special envoy, President Kufuor acknowledged the tension in the country as people waited for the Electoral Commission (EC), the constitutionally mandated body, to declare the results of Sunday’s run-off.

He said it was in the direct and immediate interest of the nation for the stakeholders in the electoral process to use the law to settle any grievances relating to the election.

President Kufuor said once the declaration of the results had been made by the EC, he would use his high office to ensure its implementation, pledging to be fair and even-handed in the implementation of the declaration.

Meanwhile, in a press release issued from the Office of the President in Accra yesterday, President Kufuor appreciated the passion with which the entire nation was awaiting the outcome of the election but appealed to Ghanaians, especially supporters of the NPP and the NDC, to remain calm and wait patiently for the declaration of the results by the EC, which alone had the constitutional mandate to undertake that function.

It stated that total co-operation in that respect would ensure that the peace and security of the nation were not undermined.

In another development, the National Security Council Secretariat has assured Ghanaians, foreigners and the international community that the government does not intend to declare a State of Emergency, as is being rumoured by the originators of that false information.

Rather, the secretariat contended that it was the aim of those people peddling that falsehood to create panic, anxiety and apprehension among the citizenry.

A press release signed and issued by Dr Sam Amoo, the National Security Co-ordinator, in Accra yesterday assured the nation that the government would not shirk its responsibilities but would continue to protect lives and property during the period.

According to the release, the attention of the secretariat had been drawn to the activities of individuals and groups who were spreading false information that the government intended to declare a State of Emergency.

Story by Nehemia Owusu Achiaw

No comments: