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Ghana elections: Akufo-Addo leads

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Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, the candidate of the ruling New Patriotic Party, took the lead in results from yesterday’s election, which will determine who manages wealth from recent oil discoveries.

Akufo-Addo, 62, won 752,114 of the votes so far counted compared with 697,341 for his main rival from the National Democratic Congress, John Atta Mills, 62, according to the Web site of Accra-based radio station, Joy FM, which cited official results. Neither is likely to achieve the 50 percent needed to avoid a second round of voting, according to an opinion poll published on Dec. 4 by the Daily Dispatch, an Accra-based newspaper.

Ghana, the world’s second-biggest cocoa grower and Africa’s second-largest gold producer, is expected to start exporting oil in 2010 after discoveries off its coast last year. Voting was not disrupted by the sort of widespread unrest witnessed during recent elections in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria that cut economic activity.

“The voting was on the whole peaceful and orderly, and Ghanaians showed extraordinary patience in exercising their right to vote,” said Baroness Valerie Amos, head of the Commonwealth’s observer group in a statement e-mailed late yesterday after polls closed.

Christian Owusu-pare, a spokesman for the country’s electoral commission, didn’t answer calls made to his mobile phone. President John Kufuor, 69, is stepping down after leading the west African nation of 20 million for two consecutive terms.

Oil Discovery

The discovery of oil by London-based Tullow Oil Plc and Dallas, Texas-based Kosmos Energy LLC has brought more attention to the closely fought election, Razia Khan, Standard Chartered Bank’s head of regional research for Africa, said in an e-mailed note. “This time around the stakes are higher,” said Khan.

Akufo-Addo has promised to continue the pro-business policies of Kufuor that helped economic growth accelerate to 6.3 percent last year from 3.7 percent in 2000 and cut the annual inflation rate to 10.7 percent from 32.9 percent over the same period. Mills, leader of the National Democratic Congress, has pledged to do more to reduce poverty and help consumers battling high fuel and food prices.

The Daily Dispatch poll forecast Akufo-Addo will obtain between 48.2 percent and 50.2 percent of the vote, while Mills was expected to take between 44.7 percent and 46.7 percent. No margin of error was given in the poll, which it said was conducted on Nov. 15.

Platform for Africa

“The election tells the international community that we Ghanaians are not violent people,” Mike Tei, a 27-year old accountant in Accra said as he bought breakfast in the capital’s Osu neighborhood. “The election is a platform for the rest of Africa” to follow.

The new president will face the effects of the worldwide economic slow down. Declining prices for Ghana’s gold exports, coupled with a slowdown in the growth of remittances from Ghanaians abroad may crimp economic growth and widen the current-account deficit, the Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts.

“I’ve ended my tenure, I believe on a positive note, with the entire nation showing readiness to help select my successor,” outgoing President Kufuor said after casting his vote near his house in Accra. Under the New Patriotic Party rule, Ghana’s per capita income has increased to almost $600 from about $300, according to the party’s own figures.

`Dramatically Close’

Voting in concurrent parliamentary elections may have resulted in the NPP’s 30-seat majority being reduced by more than a third, said Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, Middle East and Africa analyst at the New York-based Eurasia Group. Spio-Garbrah expects Mills to win the presidency. There are 230 seats in parliament.

The “National Democratic Congress is set to emerge with the largest vote share and very likely win the presidency and dramatically close the 30-seat gap in the Ghanaian parliament,” he said in a note today.

So far the two main parties have won nine seats each. Anthony Akoto-Osei, the country’s finance minister, retained his seat in the Ashanti region.

“Its truly close,” Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, executive director of the Accra-based Center for Democratic Development, said in an interview. “Its still possible that there will be a clear cut winner but with the slimmest of margins.”

Voter turnout was about 70 percent, he said.

Kwame Nkrumah

Ghana was the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain independence from its colonial ruler Britain in 1957. The country’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, a proponent of a pan- African government, was ousted in a military takeover in 1966. The country has experienced four more coups since then, two of which installed Jerry Rawlings as the nation’s president.

Mills, a university professor, served as vice president under Rawlings from 1997 to 2001. Akufo-Addo, a founding member of the NPP, is Ghana’s former attorney-general and justice minister, and is the son of former president Edward Akufo-Addo.

Source: Bloomberg

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