By Adedayo Adejobi, with Agency Reports
After a bitterly fought campaign, Ghana’s main opposition leader former foreign minister, Nana Akufo-Addo who was making his third bid for the top job, yesterday won the country’s national election, defeating imcumbent President, John Mahama, electoral commissioner Charlotte Osei said.
“It is my duty and my privilege to declare Nana Akufo-Addo as the president-elect of Ghana,” she told a news conference in the capital on Friday.
Crowds of jubilant supporters gathered outside the house of the 72-year-old New Patriotic Party (NPP) leader, who had already claimed victory on Thursday, a day after the voting took place.
Following the footsteps of Nigeria’s ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, who called the then All Progressives Congress, APC candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, to concede defeat in the 2015 Presidential election, even before vote tally had been concluded, Ghanaian’s incumbent President, John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), also called Nana Akufo-Addo, his major opponent in the presidential election, to concede defeat and congratulate him on his victory.
Prior to Osei’s announcement, Akufo-Addo said on Twitter that Mahama called him “congratulating me on winning the 2016 Presidential Election”.
Ghana’s state television also confirmed Maham’s concession.
In a change of leadership, Nana Akufo-Addo, will be the country’s new president. This was Akufo-Addo’s third bid for the country’s presidency after he narrowly lost out in elections in 2008 and 2012.
Akufo-Addo won convincingly this time with 53.85% of the vote, according to Ghana’s Electoral Commission. The incumbent won just 44.4%.
Mahama, despite touting several infrastructure projects, lost out in an election that shaped up to be a referendum on his handling of the economy. Under Mahama, Ghana’s economy, affected by a global crash in commodity prices, has stuttered to its slowest growth rate in more than two decades. Akufo-Addo consistently cited the handling of the economy as a reason to vote out the incumbent.
Even though official confirmation comes two days after the close of polls on December 7, local media had already projected a win for Akufo-Addo.
The former foreign minister, Akufo-Addo’s win continues a trend of consistently peaceful elections and transition of power in Ghana which has seen it become regarded as one of the continent’s most stable democracies.
This year, like most others, elections were largely peaceful and despite what the incumbent’s party had described as an irresponsible preemptive declaration of victory by Akufo-Addo and his New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mahama promised to “respect the outcome of the election, positive or negative.”
Prior to the election announcements after a long wait, especially with the delay by the election commission whose systems broke down, seeing them faxing polling sheets from 29,000 stations.
Earlier, Mahama appealed for calm and told his supporters he would respect the outcome of the vote whether he won or lost, in comments aimed at defusing tension ahead of the release of official results of the vote.
“I want to assure the nation that we will respect the outcome of the election, positive or negative, and so let us just be calm,” he told supporters gathered outside his house.
Mahama, who came to power in 2012 after beating Akufo-Addo, urged voters to “stay the course”, promising to deliver more infrastructure projects.
Ghana’s elections have been historically close, with Mahama narrowly winning against Akufo-Addo in 2012 with 50.7 percent. Akufo-Addo unsuccessfully challenged Mahama’s victory in the courts.
Ghana is the world’s second biggest producer of cocoa after Ivory Coast and Africa’s second biggest gold producer after South Africa.
But it was forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2015 for a bailout as global commodity prices tanked.