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Africa

Tight race expected in Ghana vote

Ghana has extended voting in its presidential election to December 8, following some glitches with new poll technology. Campaigning has been intense in Africa's 'model democracy.'

A woman casts her ballot during presidential elections in Accra, Ghana, Sunday Dec. 28, 2008. Ghanaians returned to the polls Sunday for a presidential runoff vote with Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling party facing opposition candidate John Atta Mills in an election expected to further solidify the country's status as one of Africa's few stable democracies.(AP Photo)

Ghana Wahlen Wähler vor Wahlurne

Habibuh Sualahi isn't leaving anything to chance in this election. "Since October I have been making my rounds here," says the 24 year-old man, pointing to the large market in the center of Kumasi. The market is a seemingly endless row of huts. Women sit in the shade in front of the huts and profer colorful plastic containers, sacks of flour and electrical appliances to potential customers. "Market mammies" these women are called here. They are an important force in Kumasi. Without their support, no one here can win an election.

People at the market Kumasi, Ghana10.08.2011DW / Aygül Cizmecioglu

Traders at the market in Kumasi are an influential force

Habibuh Sualahi is also a dealer in the market. He has a stand where he sells paint. But that's not what he is there for at the moment. He wants the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) to win the elections and is one of the volunteers in the campaign. "I want the NPP to win," says Habibuh. Everyday he walks through the market, trying to convince people. "They have ruled before and did well," he says.

Campaigning in Kumasi is a kind of home game for the NPP. In the last elections in 2008, the leading candidate Akufo-Addo won more than 72 percent of all the votes here. In the end, however, the party lost nationwide, trailing by 20,000 votes behind the then top candidate of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Atta Mills. But Mills is not competing in this election.

NPP presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

NPP candidate Nana Akufo-Addo is hoping to come out in front this time

In July, he died of cancer. His successor as president, John Mahama Dramini, now wants to be confirmed in office.

Dramini and Akufo-Addo are campaigning on the same issues: education, health, greater prosperity for all. Ghana has still not profited from its economic boom. Although the country is better off than many of it's neighbors, it is still a developing country. On the United Nation's Human Development Index, the West African country ranks 152nd out of 182 countries. A third of the population still cannot read or write.

The special situation of the two candidates has made this a particularly intense campaign. After his narrow defeat four years ago, the NPP's leading candidate Akufo-Addo wants to win this time, while John Mahama Dramini wants to keep the office he has held for only five months.

"We have seen a very good campaign," President Mahama told journalists in Accra a few days ago.

Ghanaian leader John Mahama Photo: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images

Incumbent John Mahama Dramini wants to be confirmed in office

"Let us work to ensure that Ghana will again become a sign of hope in Africa." Although the election run-up has been largely peaceful, some parts of the country have seen bloody clashes between supporters of the two major parties.

One of these clashes occurred at a busy intersection in Kumasi, only a few minutes' drive from the market. A week before the election, supporters of both parties attacked each other. An NDC supporter was seriously injured and had to be taken to hospital. " Many people are now afraid," the owner of a small corner shop told DW..

Ghana's late president John Atta Mills (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

John Atta Mills won the previous election but died in office in July 2012

For many people, a different question is more important. Is the Election Commission adequately prepared? On Wednesday (05.12.2012) police officers and staff of the Electoral Commission already cast their votes so they could concentrate on their work on Friday. The test run did not run smoothly. Many voters did not find their names on the electoral register. Others found their names in registers of constituencies where they didn't live. And there were several power cuts in the weeks before the election. Many people are worried that this could happen again during voting and saboteurs could make use of the confusion to steal ballot boxes.

The Election Commission, meanwhile, has been doing its best to reassure the public: "The police have assured us that they will guarantee the safety of voters and the ballot," said the spokeswoman of the Electoral Commission, Sylvia Annor. In addition, power companies would ensure that there would be no power outages. Ballots and ballot boxes would arrive on time in all 26,000 polling stations, she said.

At the market in Kumasi, many traders remain calm despite all outstanding issues. "We have already experienced five elections," said one. "Therefore, I believe that this election will turn out well".

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