President John Dramani Mahama was declared the winner Sunday of Ghana’s recent presidential election, according to provisional results, despite widespread technical glitches with the machines used to identify voters, and over the protest of the country’s opposition, which alleges vote-rigging. Armored tanks surrounded Ghana’s electoral commission and police barricaded the road around the electoral offices as the election body’s chairman Kwadwo Afari-Gyan announced that Mahama had polled 5.5 million votes, or 50.7 percent. Opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo, who lost the 2008 election by less than 1 percent, came in second with 5.2 million votes, or 47.7 percent, Afari-Gyan said. Voter turnout was high, with more than 80 percent of the roughly 14 million registered voters casting ballots in Friday’s presidential and parliamentary election.
Ghana has one of the longest traditions of democracy in this troubled corner of Africa, but Friday’s election was fraught, after biometric machines used to identify voters through their fingerprints failed to work in scores of polling stations, forcing officials to extend voting into a second day. The opposition accuses the ruling party of using the disorder caused by the technical failure to rig the election.
Ghanaians are deeply attached to their tradition of democracy, and international observers are already calling Friday’s election the sixth transparent vote in the country’s history. No other country in the region has had as many free and fair votes.
The nation of 25 million is on tenterhooks, however, with many saying that its history of democratic progress can easily be derailed, just as it was in nearby Mali, a nation that was also considered a model democracy until a coup d’etat by junior officers this spring. The outcome of the election will hinge on whether the 68-year-old Akufo-Addo, who lost the election five years ago by a razor-thin margin, will accept the results. Analysts believe that this is a make-or-break election for the lifelong politician, due to his age.