Tuesday, December 30, 2008




December 30 2008

Thousands of supporters of opposition candidate John Atta Mills, shouting “Change, change”, besieged Ghana’s electoral commission today as it prepared to announce the result of a close presidential run-off vote.

Local media had predicted a narrow victory for Mills, the candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), over his rival Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) following Sunday’s deciding vote in the West African state.

Armed soldiers and police, backed by water cannon trucks and an armoured personnel carrier, kept the NDC supporters back behind barricades at the commission headquarters in Accra.

The protesters demanded the commission declare Mills the winner.

Provisional results released by the commission, with votes counted from 200 of the country’s 230 constituencies, showed Mr Mills leading with 52.1 per cent against 47.9 per cent for the NPP’s Akufo-Addo.

Police fired shots into the air to disperse Mr Mills’ supporters as they mobbed the commission building.

Akufo-Addo’s NPP, the ruling party of outgoing President John Kufuor, denounced a prediction made by Ghana’s leading private independent broadcaster Joy FM, which had collated certified results from polling stations, that Mills would win.

A victory for Mr Mills and the NDC would end eight years of NPP rule under Kufuor, who is stepping down after serving two consecutive terms, the constitutional limit.

Ghana, the world’s No. 2 cocoa grower, has enjoyed recent growth and stability, becoming a favourite with investors. The country, also a gold producer, will start pumping oil in 2010.

NPP chairman Peter Mac Manu condemned the Joy FM projection as “highly speculative and premature” and said his party would challenge what it considered flawed results from some regions.

There were some reports of violence and disorder in Sunday’s vote.

In a preliminary verdict on Sunday’s elections, an observer mission from the West African regional bloc, Ecowas, described them as “free, peaceful, transparent and credible”. But it said complaints should be challenged peacefully and legally.

Stay calm
In a news conference on Monday, Mr Mills predicted he would win but urged his supporters to stay calm.

Eurasia Group risk consultancy, in a briefing note by Africa analyst Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, called Mill’s lead “tight but insurmountable” and predicted he would be a “narrow electoral winner without a strong governing mandate”.

Analysts say the new president will take over at a time when economic growth is expected to slow as a result of the global downturn. He will have to deal with a growing budget and current account deficit, high inflation and unemployment and falling remittance and aid levels, they say.