Ghana election: Glitches force extension of voting

An electoral officer gives ballot papers to a voter upon his arrival at Bole polling station in Ghana's northern region on December 7, 2012. Some people complained about delays caused by the new biometric voter identification system

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Voting in Ghana's presidential and parliamentary elections has been extended in many areas where technical glitches led to long delays.

Electoral officials say polling in the affected areas will resume on Saturday.

Many voters endured long queues before the polls closed at 17:00 GMT. Counting has begun where voting was completed.

A tight race is expected between President John Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo in the new oil producer - one of the world's fastest-growing economies.

Mr Mahama took over as president after John Atta Mills died in July.

Start Quote

We are proud of Ghana and hope that whoever wins will win without complications”

End Quote Haruni Safiyu Voter

The 2008 election was decided by just 30,000 votes in the run-off.

Mr Akufo-Addo, from the then governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), gained most votes in the first round but lost in the run-off.

He was praised for peacefully accepting his defeat, in the second peaceful transfer of power since military rule ended in 1992.

Mr Mahama's National Democratic Congress is also defending a narrow parliamentary majority.

Ghana is seen by many observers as model for democracy in Africa.

Prayers for peace

The BBC's David Amanor in Accra says concerns have been raised that some polling stations failed to process a single vote five hours after officially opening.

Others experienced very slow-moving queues and this agitated voters, some of whom stood or sat in line since before dawn, but voting was peaceful, he says.

The delays are being blamed on late arrival of officials, the absence of polling materials in some constituencies, and some technical problems with a new biometric registration system.

At the scene

The streets of the capital were virtually empty, with only a few motorists.

There were long queues of voters at most polling centres. Many people arrived a 0300 - five hours before voting began.

Enthusiasm and passion could be seen in the eyes of voters as they chatted, giggled and watched the voting process with vigilance - some shouted at people who attempted to by-pass the queue to vote.

Some secured their place in the line using objects such as chickens, chairs and plastic containers to represent their position.

There were a few hitches with voting in some polling centres starting up to three hours late, prompting anxiety among the expectant voters.

On Friday evening, electoral commission spokesman Christian Owusu-Parry told local radio: "Voting will continue tomorrow (Saturday) so that these people will have the opportunity to cast their ballots."

Despite the delay, local Ghanaian observers said no serious incidents were reported.

In one polling station in Accra, prayers for peace were held before voting began, Reuters news agency reports.

"We are proud of Ghana and hope that whoever wins will win without complications," said Haruni Safiyu, a 26-year-old labourer just before casting his ballot.

A special website, Ghana Votes, has been set up to report any problems such as fraud or violence.

Whoever wins will oversee the continued oil-fuelled spending boom in the coming years.

Both candidates have promised to use the money to improve education provision.

Mr Mahama is expected to do well in his home area in the north, while Mr Akufo-Addo draws much of his support from urban areas and the eastern Ashanti region.

The NPP candidate is the son of a former president but denies that his privileged background means he does not care about the poor in a country where the average income remains less than $4 (£3) a day.

On Thursday, electoral commission head Kwadwo Afari-Gyan told the BBC that the biometric fingerprinting system had been extensively tested over two months and again earlier this week, when security personnel voted.

Some 14 million people were registered to vote in 26,000 polling stations nationwide.

Both Mr Mahama and Mr Akufo-Addo have promised to accept the result, but 5,000 soldiers have been put on standby just in case.

A run-off will be held on 28 December if no candidate wins more than 50%.

There are six other presidential contenders and hundreds of candidates for the 275 parliamentary seats.

Here is a selection of your comments and experiences.

Voting at south campus, university of education, Winneda has been relatively calm and peaceful. I voted at 0840 after joining a long-winding queue of voters at 0620. I am happy to vote and I expect a huge voter turnout due to increasing number of people at the various polling stations. May Ghana be the ultimate winner. I love my nation.

John Darkwah, Winneda

It took me less than five minutes to go through the entire voting exercise for the presidential and parliamentary elections. After so much tension prior to the election as a result of all the vitriolic rhetoric from the political parties I found the whole experience uneventful-in fact boring. I feel cheated.

Philip Owusu, Accra

What I know and firmly believe is that once again, Ghana, the pacesetters of African emancipation will make Africa proud and set the right example as was set in 1992,'96, 2000,'04,08 and in July when Mills died. There's been no incidences except for verification delays and wild rumours going about, unfortunately fuelled by the numerous FM stations even way before the election took off today. The general opinion here is a first round clear winner and the swift getting on with our lives. Those who have already cast their votes have either gone home or peacefully loitering amount in a vigilant attempt at ensuring that the shouldn't be any incidence of "macho" men coming to snatch ballot boxes. Well we wait to see an incident-free election. God bless my homeland Ghana.

Iddrisu Limann, Bantama, Kumasi

I've just cast my vote to move Ghanaians forward. I was proud to queue side by side with fellow Ghanaians who mostly looked restless to cast their votes. There seem to be no undivided voters as the queue moved far faster than I expected. It's my prayer that our votes, not the greed of top, that decides where our future lies. I'll be far more proud of my country should this elections reflect our need to move forward peacefully and as a nation who have their unborn generations at heart. God Bless Ghana!

Eugene Bempah, Accra

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