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General News of Wednesday, 10 December 2008

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...December 28 set for run-off

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The presidential race is headed to a runoff.

The chairman of Ghana's Electoral Commission says neither the ruling party nor the opposition secured enough votes to win the election outright. A runoff will be held Dec. 28.

Chairman Kwadwo Afari-Gyan said both candidates received under 50 percent of the vote.

The ruling party's Nana Akufo-Addo won 4,159,439 votes, representing 49.13 percent of votes cast, and opposition leader John Atta Mills received 4,056,634 votes (47.92 percent).

A gap of only 102,000 votes separated the two candidates in an election in which eight million people voted.

The other six candidates pulled fewer than 10 percent of the vote. The percentage poll was 67.9 percent.

A total of 8,671,272 votes were cast, out of which a whopping 205,438 or 2.4% were rejected. Ghana recorded a nationwide voter population of 12,472,758 for the 2008 elections and turnout was 69.52%

(Reuters)The presidential run-off was announced after provisional results so far showed Mills' opposition NDC making gains that could overturn the NPP's previous majority in the national assembly, where it held 128 of 230 seats.

Some analysts said this indicated a punishment vote against the ruling party of President John Kufuor, who steps down in January after the maximum two terms.

"The results reflect a referendum on the performance of the incumbent. It is the people's verdict and I think it's a good challenge in our democracy. It is an indication of the people's maturity," University of Ghana lecturer Kwame Karikari said.

An NDC victory in parliament would, if combined with a presidential win for the NPP's Akufo-Addo in the second round, set up the prospect of a divided government for Ghana at a time when it is moving towards becoming an oil producer in late 2010.

The Gulf of Guinea country, a former British colony regarded by investors as one of Africa's most promising emerging markets, has seen its cocoa- and gold-exporting economy buffeted this year by fuel and food price rises that have hit family budgets.

"A win by the NPP in the second round will automatically produce a divided government, which will naturally create regular tensions around yearly budgets, ministerial appointments and privatizations," said Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, an analyst with Eurasia Group.

In a briefing note, Spio-Garbrah added that a second round win for the NDC presidential candidate could call into question some recent economic decisions taken by the ruling NPP, such as the sale this year of a 70 percent stake in phone operator Ghana Telecom to Britain's Vodafone.

In its latest look at the Ghana elections, Renaissance Capital said the future president and parliament would have to cooperate closely to address Ghana's large fiscal deficit, estimated at 10 percent of GDP.

This posed a serious challenge to the government to emerge from the polls as it would find it difficult to borrow externally in the tough conditions of a global credit crunch, Renaissance added in its analysis briefing.

While noting some procedural and organisational problems, foreign observers were full of praise for Ghana's elections to choose a new parliament and a successor to President John Kufuor, who steps down in January after the maximum two terms.

Ghana is one of Africa's few stable democracies and the election marks its fifth consecutive democratic vote. International election observers pronounced the first round free and transparent