GHANA opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo, 72, has been declared winner of Wednesday’s presidential contest, beating incumbent President John Mahama.
Akufo-Addo won 53.85% of the votes cast against 44.40% by President Mahama, Electoral Commission Chairperson, Charlotte Osei announced Friday evening.
Akufo-Addo, and leader of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), who had run unsuccessfully for president twice before, polled 5,716,026 votes against Mahama’s 4,713, 277.
In a speech, Mahama conceded the election and congratulated president-elect Nana Addo on “his well-fought and well-deserved victory”.
It was a quick and polite end to two high-tension days, as the results trickled and both NPP and Mahama ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) held several press conferences to claim their internal tally showed they had won the election.
However, after a promising start by Mahama as the counting got underway, by late Thursday the momentum swung in favour of Akufo-Addo, who was brimming with confidence, and he slowly pulled away as more provisional results poured in.
MAHAMA FIRST ONE-TERM PRESIDENT
The other presidential candidates didn’t wait, congratulating Akufo-Addo as early as Thursday, and thus beginning to create a sense of the inevitability of Mahama’s defeat.
There were seven presidential contenders, including five minor candidates.
Mahama has become the first elected Ghanaian president to lose an election after serving only one term.
For the NPP, it marks a return to power since John Kuffour’s term ended in 2009.
Elections in Ghana are famously close races, and when Akufo-Addo and Mahama last locked horns in 2012, Mahama narrowly won with 50.7%.
The elections proceeded largely smoothly without the violence some had feared, as the two main parties had both raised militias ahead of the vote.
There were hiccups Thursday, after the Ghana election commission announced that its website had been hacked. Later in the day it abandoned electronic transmission of results, saying it believed the system has been “compromised”, and resorted to manual verification of the results.
A MODEL DEMOCRACY
Ghana is considered a model democracy in West Africa, and has a history of peaceful elections and more democratic transitions through the vote than any other country in the region.
Akuffo-Ado is a well-spoken conservative businessman, whom critics slate for having an aristocratic air. He ran for president in 2008 and 2012. He served as Attorney General from 2001 to 2003 and as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2003 to 2007.
The opposition win in Ghana is the second dramatic election outcome in West Africa in a week. Last Friday in The Gambia, the country’s strongman of 22 years, Yahya Jammeh, stunned everyone by conceding defeat to the opposition’s Adama Barrow in a vote held on December 1.
In the months heading to the election, Jammeh who once said he would “rule for a billion years”, had carried out a crackdown of the opposition, with security forces torturing and even killing activists.
On the eve of the election, the government shut down the internet and blocked international calls.
By close of the day, the election outcome could confirm the shift of Africa’s “democratic centre” to West Africa. By Friday evening, though, there were signs that Jammeh – typically – was trying to go back on his acceptance of the election results.
Nevertheless with or without Barrow’s victory, west Africa still the highest concentration of countries on the continent where the opposition has won presidential or parliamentary elections at least once – Cape Verde, Principe and Sao Tome, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria.
Ghana has capped it.