Ghana electoral preparations on course By FRANCIS KOKUTSE in Accra | Tuesday, December 4   2012 at  17:44

The Chief Justice of Ghana Georgina Wood. She has urged all the presidential candidates to accept the results once the election is over. Photo | FILE 

Ghanaians today took the first step to casting their votes on December 7 as the Electoral Commission (EC) opened special voting for more than 41,000 security personnel who will be on duty on voting day.

Police have discounted media reports from the country’s second city Kumasi, a stronghold of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), suggesting that some people are stockpiling arms. However, there were reported clashes last weekend between some members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and NPP activists in Kumasi where several people were shot at.

The Police insist the incident was an isolated one that will not affect the election.

The security people involved in the early voting are drawn from the Ghana Armed Forces, Police, Fire Service, and the Prison Service. Also called in for early voting are officials of the Immigration Service and the Electoral Commission.

Additionally, the EC has directed that all political campaigns should end tomorrow (Wednesday). “By convention of the EC, campaigning for the both the Presidential and Parliamentary election must end 48 hours to the election,” said the Commission’s acting Public Affairs director Christian Owusu Parry.

Over 14 million people are expected to cast their votes when polls open at 0700 hours on Friday throughout all the 26,002 polling stations from 275 constituencies.

The choice is between President John Dramani Mahama of the ruling NDC who took over six months ago after the death of President John Atta Mills on July 24 this year, and seven others.

'Protect reputation'

The other seven are Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo of NPP, who is President Mahama’s leading challenger; Henry Hebert Lartey of the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) and Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP); Akwasi Addai Odike of the United Front Party (UFP); Hassan Ayariga of the People’s National Convention (PNC); Michael Abu Sakara Foster of the Convention People’s Party (CPP); and Jacog Osei, an Independent candidate.

Figures produced by the EC show that 1,332 candidates are contesting for the 275 parliamentary seats, but only 134 are women compared to 1,198 men. Some women’s organisations have complained about the low number of women candidates appealed to the political parties to do more on affirmative action.

However, the main concern of stakeholders is a peaceful election. Chief Justice Mrs Georgina Wood has called on leaders of the political parties to accept the outcome of the election in order to reduce tension in the country.

Mrs Wood noted that Ghana has built a reputation as a democratic country and urged all to jealously guard this image because “the international community is watching us.”

President Mahama himself has appealed to his competitors to demonstrate to their followers that they are committed to a free, fair and transparent election. “Let us allow our people to exercise their franchise freely and let the ballot speak,” he said.

Adding his voice to these appeals is former prime minister of Lesotho, Dr Pakalitha Mosisili, who is leading a 13-member Commonwealth observer team. “For Ghana, the 2012 elections represent an opportunity to further enhance the country’s democratic reputation,” he said.

Ecowas has also sent a 250-member observer team led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. He told a media briefing on arrival that Ghana stands tall in the region when it came to conducting peaceful, free and credible elections.

“My brothers and sisters in Ghana have established a tradition, culture and reputation as people who have managed peaceful, transparent and credible elections over the years,” he said, adding that “this track record of the country in election matters will not be an exception; it will also strengthen the culture and tradition of the past.”