Ghana opposition to challenge vote results in court

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ACCRA (AFP) – Ghana’s main opposition party said Tuesday it planned to challenge presidential election results in court after having alleged a “pattern of fraud” in incumbent John Dramani Mahama’s victory.

“We are going to court,” New Patriotic Party chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey told reporters after a meeting of party officials, including its candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, who had not commented but was expected to speak later.

The decision comes with the country under pressure to maintain its reputation as a stable democracy in turbulent West Africa. Local election observers, citing their own findings, have said they support the results showing Mahama won.

According to the electoral commission, Mahama won the election held over Friday and Saturday with 50.70 percent of the votes cast, compared with Akufo-Addo’s 47.74 percent.

The NPP alleged a “pattern of fraud” even before the official results were announced.

Stakes in the election were especially high in the country of 24 million people with a booming economy fueled in part by a new and expanding oil industry.

Top officials from the opposition New Patriotic Party gathered for the meeting at an Accra hotel a day after Akufo-Addo said he was not ready to concede defeat and was considering a court challenge.

Akufo-Addo, a 68-year-old human rights lawyer, said Monday after his party alleged fraud in the election that Ghana’s democratic image “shouldn’t be a falsehood.”

“It shouldn’t be that on the surface we have democracy, but underneath we have something else,” he said. “We want the democracy of Ghana to be a genuine one.”

Akufo-Addo, the son of a former president, added that “there would seem to be a serious case for saying something seriously went wrong.”

A crowd of loyalists had gathered outside Akufo-Addo’s house on Monday in support of the candidate, who lost 2008 elections by less than one percentage point.

Mahama received welcomed support from Washington on Monday as the White House urged all Ghanaians to accept the result of their election and congratulated him on his victory.

Observers from the Commonwealth, West African bloc ECOWAS and local group CODEO all said the vote appeared peaceful and transparent.

After the official results were announced, CODEO called them “generally an accurate reflection of how Ghanaians voted in the December 7 polls”, based on the group’s own findings from its observers deployed throughout the country.

The opposition however had issued a scathing statement even before the official results were announced late Sunday.

“Indeed, we have enough concrete evidence to show that the 2012 presidential election was won by our candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo,” it said, alleging a “pattern of fraud.”

The 54-year-old Mahama, previously vice president, has only been head of state since July, following the death of his predecessor John Atta Mills.

Elections since the return to civilian rule in 1992 have seen both parties voted out of office, establishing Ghana’s democratic credentials in a region that has had its share of rigged polls and coups.

Ghana is also a top exporter of cocoa and gold, with economic growth of 14 percent in 2011. Eight percent growth is expected this year and next.

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