Ghana's Vice-President John Dramani Mahama (R) takes the oath of office as head of state, hours after the announcement of the death of Ghana's President John Atta Mills, in the capital Accra
Ghana has seen a smooth transition of power after the sudden death of its president, but as the nation mourns attention is already turning to who will replace him as the ruling party's candidate in a December vote.
Vice-President John Dramini Mahama was sworn in hours after the announcement of the death through sudden illness on Tuesday of 68-year-old President John Atta Mills, reports Reuters.
This ensured that the West African oil, gold and cocoa producer, a former British colony once known as the Gold Coast, avoided the kind of messy political transitions that have plagued other states in a coup-prone region.
Ghanaians congratulated themselves on the seamless handover. Mahama, 53, a historian, former minister and communications expert, is expected to bring a steady hand to a fast-growing economy, one of Africa's newest oil producers.
But questions over who will now step into Mills' shoes as the candidate to keep his governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) in power in December's elections will inject some uncertainty into the political outlook.
Analysts say this could drive down the Ghanaian currency, which has lost about 17 percent against the dollar this year as the country's oil-fuelled boom sucks in capital and consumer imports and drives up demand for dollars to pay for them.
Traders said the cedi was relatively stable on Wednesday at 1.9550/1.9600 to the greenback.
"Political disruption is likely to be internal and will focus on who is the NDC's presidential nominee," said Azim Datardina, Ghana analyst at Africa Risk Consulting.
Mills, seeking a second term despite having suffered for years from undisclosed health problems, had already won his party's nomination to run against the opposition New Patriotic Party's Nana Akufo-Addo, defeating a divisive challenge from the wife of still influential ex-president Jerry Rawlings.
Some analysts expect Nana Konadu, Rawlings' wife whom Mills crushed in the NDC primaries, to claim an automatic nomination.
But Alban Bagbin, Ghana's health minister and a member of the NDC legal team, said the party would hold an extraordinary meeting to pick a new candidate for what is expected to be a tight race for the presidency.
"Most likely is a new nomination contest with a number of high-profile challengers who earlier balked at opposing Mills. A likely candidate is John Mahama," said Africa Risk Consulting's Datardina.
Flags flew at half mast on Wednesday as the nation began a week of national mourning for Mills, who had served as president since winning a 2008 presidential contest that won plaudits for going down to the wire but remaining peaceful.
"I am personally devastated - I've lost a father, I've lost a friend, I've lost a mentor and a senior comrade," Mahama said in his first comments after being sworn in before a sombre parliament on Tuesday evening.
"The fine gentleman that he was, President Mills rightly earned the title 'Asomdwehene' (King of Peace). He brought a distinctive insight to Ghanaian politics. He remained humble, honest and modest throughout his years in public service."
That sense of loss was shared by ordinary Ghanaians too.
"I didn't know him personally but he's everybody's father and a peacemaker," said Peter Fiave, a 70-year-old who went to parliament to witness the swearing-in of Mahama.
Tributes poured in from around the globe from heads of state like U.S. President Barack Obama, who had feted Ghana under Mills as a model and "good news story" for Africa.
Rivals were quick to praise the nation's handling of the sudden loss. "We are showing a maturity that must encourage all Ghanaians," said opposition NPP Chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey.