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Kufuor hails his re-election as a vote for peace and tranquillity

[Ghana] President John Kufuor cast his vote in Accra during the December 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Seeking a second term as president, John Kufuor casts his vote (IRIN)

Ghana’s President John Kufuor has won a second four-year term in office in a poll he described as a victory for the country’s continuing stability in an often chaotic region.

The 66-year-old former lawyer known as “the gentle giant” garnered 52.7 percent of the vote, Ghana's Electoral Commission said late Thursday after almost all the ballots had been counted.

Eight of every ten registered voters -- some 8.5 million Ghanaians -- turned out to choose their new president in Tuesday's elections, a massive turnout in this country which was Africa's proud first winner of independence and was holding its fourth multi-party ballot.

Kufuor came to power in 2000 and has been widely credited for shoring up the economy and winning the confidence of foreign donors as Ghana consolidated its reputation as a haven for stability and tolerance.

In a live broadcast on Friday, the re-elected president called on his opponents to join efforts to maintain stability and take the economy forward.

“The nation is proving itself to the whole world as mature and united, indeed a beacon of democracy with a peaceful, stable and secure environment,” Kufuor told the nation.

Top challenger, John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), polled 44.3 percent after the counting of votes from all but five of 230 constituencies. It was Mills' second consecutive presidential defeat at the hands of Kufuor and his New Patriotic Party.

The two other candidates running for the presidency, the Grand Coalition’s Edward Mahama and the Convention People’s Party (CPP) George Aggudey, polled 1.93 percent and one percent respectively.

Although officials registered three politically-related deaths and incidents of violence, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, which deployed 7,400 local monitors, gave the election a thumbs-up, saying it was “peaceful, free and fair"

Mills, a 60-year-old former law lecturer, and his NDC had called for a vote recount alleging irregularities and high quantities of rejected ballots. But this was turned down by the Electoral Commission (EC).

“There is no legitimacy for any objections to surface now. All Ghanaians openly participated in the counting process,” the Centre for Democratic Development’s Baffour Agyemang-Duah told IRIN.

In the race for 230 members of parliament, which was held alongside the presidential vote, Kufuor’s NPP looks set to maintain its majority with 129 seats so far secured against 88 for the NDC.

The late night announcement of the results brought people spilling onto the streets, with residents dressed in the NPP’s blue, white and red dancing across Accra and marching towards the president’s private residence in a plush city suburb.

Sharing out Ghana's wealth

Improving living standards featured high in campaign promises in this country of 19 million where many remain desperately poor. Nearly 45 percent live below the official UN poverty line of less than a dollar a day, and average per capita income is just US$ 304 a year.

The first Kufuor administration chalked up some mighty macro-economic successes, buoyed by favourable cocoa and gold prices on the world market.

The economy is now growing more than five percent a year compared to 3.7 percent back in 2000. Inflation has fallen 13 points to 40.5 percent and the cost of borrowing has also dropped significantly with interest rates at 29.5 percent against 47.5 percent in 2000.

Kufuor's reputation for good governance has also won the hearts of western donors. Under his leadership, Ghana qualified last June for substantial debt relief under the World Bank's Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, which is set to slash the country's US$ 6 billion external debt in half over 20 years and reduce debt service payments.

But the opposition's criticism that the government has not been able to translate this into fuller stomachs and more money in the pockets of ordinary people is one many Ghanaians share.

Charity Mensahm, a 23-year-old hawker selling sweets and soft drinks said she had voted for Mills because the price of flour had doubled during Kufuor’s first four years in office. After the 2004 elections, she was facing the reality of another four years of Kufuor.

“Since he’s won, let’s give him the opportunity to make the economy better and make life easier for us,” she told IRIN.

Yoofi Grant, an investment banker and an executive director of Databank, said accusations that the government could only trumpet economic successes on paper were unfounded.

“A decrease in inflation and an increase in net wages means increased spending for Ghanaians. The earlier focus on the private and business sector is bound to yield a marked increase on growth, savings and the productivity of the financial sector.” Grant told IRIN.

“Ghana is enjoying good investor goodwill from the international community. Coupled with political stability, Kufuor’s second term should score some major economic successes.”


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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