Ghana’s main opposition party said on Thursday it had an unassailable lead in a presidential election and called on President John Mahama to concede defeat – comments dismissed as “treasonable” by the incumbent’s campaign team.
Ghana has enjoyed two peaceful transitions of power via elections since 2000, a fact unusual in Africa. But the 2012 election outcome was fiercely disputed and an economic slump caused by plunging commodity prices exposed Mahama’s government to a strong opposition challenge in Wednesday’s vote.
The New Patriotic Party said its candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, had taken 53.5 percent of the vote according to its own tally, against 44.8 percent for Mahama based on 92 percent of 29,000 polling stations collated.
“We have absolutely won the presidential race and we have a majority in parliament,” NPP policy adviser Boakye Agyarko told Reuters.
A senior official for the ruling party, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, countered that Mahama was “comfortably ahead” and asked his supporters to remain calm.
“The results are still trickling in and the call and declaration by the NPP is irresponsible and treasonable because it can throw this country into chaos,” he said.
Figures shown by various television and radio stations showed the two main candidates running generally neck-and-neck. Privately-owned Joy FM put Akufo-Addo at 48.96 percent and Mahama 48.72 percent with 76 of 275 constituencies counted.
Electoral commission spokesman Eric Dzakpasu said that it would need to verify some results in precincts where the number of votes cast appeared to exceed the number of registered voters, but it would start releasing returns later on Thursday.
An NPP spokesman said any further delay by the Commission in certifying results “gives suspicion that (it) is trying to overturn the clearly expressed will of the people.
“We urge the commission to come out and announce the results and allay the anxiety of the nation that has voted for change,” spokesman Sammy Awuku told a news conference.
“We call on the youth of our country to remain calm, we also say the electoral commission has a responsibility to … restore sanity to the process,” he said.
The NPP comments, however, looked likely to raise tension among its supporters despite Ghana’s history of peaceful voting in which, even when the result has been close, politicians have generally not taken their disputes to the streets.
But discontent has risen in the West African nation of 27 million people over the past four years as an economy once among Africa’s most dynamic has suffered from the drop in global prices paid for its gold, oil and cocoa exports.
Allegations that Mahama’s government has mismanaged national finances, widening a budget deficit and heightening inflation, have contributed to the heated political atmosphere.
Ghana has been one of Africa’s most stable democracies and voters have ejected the government of the day twice since 2000.
(Writing by Tim Cocks; editing by Mark Heinrich)