- Ghana is being hailed for its well organised and fair elections, which this weekend saw opposition candidate John Atta Mills win the presidency. Democracy has now gained a strong foothold in the country.
According to the official results from Ghana's Electoral Commission showed that the opposition leader had narrowly won the country's run-off elections, beating the favourite from President John Kufuor's ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akufo-Addo.
Mr Atta Mills was said to have won by a narrow margin of only 50.23 percent of the votes, while Mr Akufo-Addo polled 49.77 percent of Ghanaian votes.
The Electoral Commission thus announced that the opposition candidate had won the polls. Commission leader Kwado Afari-Gyan in an official statement, reading out the results, said that "on the basis of the official results given, it is my duty to declare Professor John Evans Atta Mills the President-Elect of the Republic of Ghana."
Late last year, during the first presidential poll round, Mr Atta Mills' party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), also won the parliamentary elections, ending the NPP's hold on the Accra national assembly. The NDC therefore will control both the presidency and parliament, enabling to implement its budgets and policies.
The election marks the second-ever democratic regime change in Ghana, after current President Kufuour won over Mr Atta Mills, who was the thus ruling party candidate of ex-Dictator Jerry Rawlings. After two terms in the Accra presidency, Mr Kufour now is stepping back.
An observer team from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) today endorsed the 7 and 28 December elections as free, fair and credible. The observers also lauded the Ghanaian security forces for their neutrality.
While the Electoral Commission and international election observers have hailed the polls as free and fair, candidate Akufo-Addo, referring to the narrow victory and some small irregularities, said he still considered to contest the results. In particular in the constituency of Tain, which the ruling party had boycotted, Mr Akufo-Addo claimed his party supporters had been intimidated by the opposition.
However the ECOWAS observers, present in the Tain constituency, said that the absence of the NPP in Tain had "no significant effect on the overall outcome of the results of the run-off elections." The Tain Constituency had 56,000 registered voters, constituting 0.44 percent of the total registered number of voters for the 2008 presidential run-off.
Despite the controversial poll in Tain, there is a general agreement that the elections in Ghana have been a celebration of the new democracy emerging in several African states, allowing the opposition a real possibility to win the electoral process.
Ghana is now sailing up as Africa's model democracy, with the country harvesting economic and development gains from its positive image. The West African nation has increasingly been attracting foreign investments and is on good terms with all major donor nations. Poverty is however still rampant due to the misrule during the authoritarian regimes of the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
Congratulations today kept streaming in to Ghana from around the world for the highly symbolic democratic success in the West African nation. The successful poll was seen as a necessary correction to the negative image give Africa by regimes like Zimbabwe and recent coups in Mauritania and Guinea.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today congratulated the people and government of Ghana on the peaceful elections. "Ghanaians can and should take pride in this democratic achievement," Mr Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson.
"With their continuing show of commitment to the democratic process, Ghana and its leaders are setting an admirable example," Mr Ban added. He noted the dedication and professionalism of the West African nation's Electoral Commission, and commended the political parties and their leadership for their "statesmanlike conduct" during the polls' final stages.
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