Ghanaians pray for peaceful elections

Listeners to local radio stations were calling in, before dawn, with prayers for peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections.

With the polls being held for the first time on a Sunday, many churches had held services the day before to allow their congregations to vote.

In Jamestown, a fishing community in Accra, voters had queued from 0500 GMT, two hours before the polls opened.

“It is all in God’s hands but I am sure the elections are going to be peaceful,” said 70-year-old Koshie, who was first in the queue at a polling station which once housed an engineering workshop.

They were queuing just along the road from Ussher Fort where Kwame Nkrumah had been locked up by British colonial authorities.

He was elected as an MP while still in the jail and was then released and led the country to independence in 1957.

High stakes

Ghana may have had a bumpy ride since then but these are the fifth successive elections since the return of multi-party politics in 1992.

The stakes are not only high because of recent oil discoveries but also because the country’s two main parties have both had eight years in office.

“We Ghanaians don’t want violence – everything is going to be fine,” said Mavis as she waited to cast her ballot.

“We are going to have a new president – he can be NDC or he can be NPP we just hope he is a good one.”

Fusieni Al Hassan has voted for Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor in past elections but would not say which side of the political divide his thumbprint would be going this time.

“This election is a very crucial one because we need good schools and healthcare for our children and we want food in the city with improvements in agriculture,” he said.

World attention

Several groups of local and international observers are keeping a close eye on events in Ghana hoping the continent can be given a democratic boost after the shambolic polls in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.

“We need good elections in Ghana,” said the African Union’s chief observer, Salim Ahmed Salim, at a polling station in Accra.

“They have had four elections now and they have been done very well and this will be seen as a consolidation of the democratic process. The attention of not only Africa, but of the world community is on Ghana at this point.

“The example shown by John McCain when he lost [the US elections] despite a very bitter electioneering campaign, is remarkable and I hope that all of us would learn something from there.”

With no credible opinion polls, predicting a result is impossible but this is widely seen as another close contest.

Results must be declared within 72 hours from close of polls but, if there is no outright winner, citizens will be back in the voting queues in three weeks time.

Credit: Will Ross
Source: BBC

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