Ghana Votes for President in Race Pitting Longtime Rivals

Ghanaians voted Monday in a presidential election that’s expected to be tight, as the two front-runners face off for a third time.

President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party is seeking another four years at the helm of Africa’s top gold producer. His predecessor, John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress, aims to unseat him with a promise of mass infrastructure spending.

The winner of Monday’s contest will be expected to sort out the country’s fiscal challenges. That’s after the havoc wreaked by the coronavirus pandemic drove Ghana’s ratio of debt to gross domestic product to 71% in September, the highest in four years.

Before the global health crisis, the West African nation was already under fiscal pressure due to the costs of cleaning up the banking sector and meeting energy-sector liabilities.

Mahama, 62, defeated Akufo-Addo in 2012 to serve his first full-term as president after completing the mandate of John Atta Mills, who died in office. Akufo-Addo, 76, then beat him in a 2016 ballot, taking over the leadership of one of the continent’s most stable democracies.

The top contenders, whose parties have dominated Ghanaian politics since 1992, are competing in a race fielding 12 candidates. The country’s 17 million voters will also choose 275 lawmakers to determine if the ruling NPP will retain control of parliament.

Safe Voting

Voting went smoothly, election-watchers said.

“The arrangements put in place by the electoral commission for the setup and opening of the polls were adequate for most polling stations,” Sheik Armyawo Shaibu, the head of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, told reporters in the capital, Accra.

“The entire thing seems to be in keeping with the Ghana tradition of high-quality electoral processes,” former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who led a delegation from the Economic Community of West African States, said in Accra.

Ghanaians cast their ballots from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, and the electoral commission plans to announce all results Tuesday. Special measures had been put in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which has claimed 325 lives in Ghana since the first cases were reported in March.

“I found that they were observing the protocols, so I felt safe voting,” said Martha Bosomtwe, a 26-year-old nurse who wants the country to implement universal health coverage. “I’ve seen firsthand how the two main parties govern and that’s helped me decide who to vote for,” she said early Monday from a polling unit in Nungua, a town on the outskirts of Accra.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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