Ruling party candidate holds slim lead amid fraud allegations

Ghana's ruling New Patriotic Party candidate Nana Akufo-Addo maintains a slim lead in early results of the presidential election while the opposition claims that the vote has been rigged.


AFP - Ghana's ruling party candidate held Tuesday a slim lead in the presidential election, as the opposition claimed foul play in a poll that observers hope could set an example for the rest of Africa.

With more than half of 230 electoral constituencies reporting in unofficial provisional tallies, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) standard-bearer Nana Akufo-Addo was in the lead with 50.33 percent of ballots.

Opposition aspirant John Atta Mills, who is running for the country's top job for the third time, was trailing behind with around 47 percent of the votes in the 180 constituencies so far reporting.

Akufo-Addo could avoid a run-off if he wins more than 50 percent of the vote after a poor showing from third-place candidate Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Convention People's Party (CPP), who had been seen as a possible spoiler.

The country's main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), claimed Mills won the election and alleged the ruling NPP was trying to rig the election.

The NDC said it had reports of ballot boxes suddenly surfacing after counting had closed.

But the NPP denied the charges, saying in a statement: "The NDC is not winning and we are not trying to rig this election."

The opposition also alleged the security forces were trying to help the ruling party candidate take the election by around 51 percent.

But the military denied the allegations as "totally false, mischievous and calculated to undermine the integrity of the military high command and the unity of the country."

But independent local and international observers have not reported any significant incidents in Sunday's vote.

The Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) expressed hope that the electoral process would continue to be peaceful and transparent, and said it had not recorded any cases of "organised fraud."

Former Nigerian leader General Yakubu Gowon, who heads the ECOWAS team of observers, described the polls as "excellent" on Monday.

The electoral commission has until end of the day Wednesday to announce full provisional results.

The non-partisan Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), which includes religious, civil society and business groups, deployed 4,000 poll watchers and is conducting its own count.

The coalition warned it could release its own results if the Electoral Commission (EC) fails to do so by the deadline.

"CODEO may be compelled to pre-empt the EC declaration of election results if the EC's self-imposed dealine expires without any tangible explanations," said CODEO.

In the capital, small groups of supporters huddled around radios and broke into sporadic jubilation once their parliamentary candidates were declared winners.

According to results some top government ministers in the outgoing administration lost their seats, among them Information Minister Stephen Asamoah-Boateng.

Seven candidates ran to succeed John Kufuor, who stands down early January after serving the maximum two four-year terms.

Observers have said Ghana could provide a shining example to the rest of Africa after the crises that followed recent elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya.

The former British colony, which was the first African state to gain its independence in 1957, was plagued by coups until the return to multi-party democracy in 1992.

Once economically stagnant, Ghana has enjoyed steady growth in recent years and the next president will be able to tap into oil revenues when the country starts pumping crude in 2010 offshore near the port of Takoradi.

Ghana's oil is set to upstage the gold, cocoa and timber exports it has relied on to date.

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