Ghanaians began lining up at polling stations before dawn on Wednesday to elect their next president as the west African nation hopes to reaffirm its reputation as a model of democracy on the continent. Despite concerns about the credibility of the elections, voter enthusiasm has been high. The race is expected to be tight between the incumbent president, John Dramani Mahama, and the opposition leader, Nana Akufo-Addo. “We need change in Ghana because things are very difficult,” said Stephen Antwi Boasiako, a taxi driver in the capital, Accra, who said he could barely afford the taxes and insurance for his vehicle. “This country has a lot of resources that can provide good jobs, but they are not used. I blame the Mahama government 100%.”
Mahama, of the National Democratic Congress, is seeking a second four-year term as Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic party, makes his third and probably final run for the highest office in a nation of more than 28 million people. Candidates from four smaller parties are also on the ballot. Ghanaians will also elect members of parliament to serve in the country’s 275 constituencies.
The elections are expected to be a referendum on the incumbent party’s last eight years in power and its handling of the economy, which has been dogged by a decline in global commodity prices and perceived economic mismanagement and corruption. The opposition has exploited high unemployment levels and underperforming GDP growth rates in an effort to appeal to frustrated Ghanaians.
Mahama has defended his record, campaigning on plans to boost economic growth and continue modest gains in infrastructure development. A change in government, he says, would reverse the progress made during the last four years.