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Date:06 Dec 2016
Ghana goes to the polls in a couple of hours...The Journey so far

The 2016 presidential and parliamentary polls are couple of hours away with Ghanaians expected to turn up in their numbers at the various polling centres to exercise their franchise. Turnout for the last general elections was 79,43 percent and this could be repeated although some analysts suspect turnout may be lower this year, judging from the level of political campaign activity and participation of electorates.

Queues could start forming by midnight in some polling centres as eligible voters look to secure prime spots but many are not expected at the centres until about five in the morning.

Hot contest
The 2016 election is a hotly contested one with many analysts suggesting that it is the most issue based contest in the country so far. The issues border on employment, transforming the economy, education, corruption, infrastructure development among others.

Seven candidates are in the race for the job of the president. They are the incumbent John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Ivor Kwabena Greenstreet of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), and Dr. Edward Mahama of the People’s National Convention (PNC). There rest are Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings of the National Democratic Party (NDP) and Jacob Osei Yeboah an independent candidate.

Four of the contestants, John Mahama, Nana Akufu-Addo, Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom and Jacob Osei Yeboah took part in the 2012 elections. Dr. Edward Mahama is contesting for the 6th time although he did not contest in the immediate past presidential elections because he lost the primaries to represent his party. The NPP candidate on his part is making the third attempt at the top job.

The new entrants are Ivor Greenstreet, the first physically challenged person to contest for the top positon in Ghana and Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, wife of Ex-President Rawlings who was a very influential first lady for nineteen years under both military rule and democratic governance.She however fell out with the NDC in 2012 and founded the NDP. Her first attempt to contest for the presidency four years ago was unsuccessful as her party was disqualified from contesting due to improper filling of forms with the Electoral Commission.

The election is however considered a straight fight between the incumbent John Mahama and the leader of the largest opposition party, Nana Akufo-Addo.

In the 2012 elections, the then Vice President Mahama who contested following the demise his boss Prof John Atta Mills, won by 50.7 percent while Nana Akufu-Addo got 47.74 percent. The results were however disputed and ended up at the country’s Supreme Court for 8 months before the apex court ruled in favour of the incumbent.

In all about 15,712,499 million eligible voters are expected to cast their votes in some 28,921 polling stations throughout the country, in a race that is difficult to predict.

Issues preceding the polls
The high stakes and keenness of the contest has manifested in several legal suits and public protests against the Electoral Commission (EC) by groups and individuals considered to be sympathetic to the main opposition NPP, in a bid to ensure that the electoral process is transparent, free and fair. Key among the issues raised was a call for a new voters’ register. These agitations compelled the EC to set up a panel of eminent personalities which held a day’s forum to solicit suggestions from the public and key stakeholders on whether to prepare a new register or clean up the exiting one. The Panel’s conclusion was in favour of a cleaned register but that did not stop the legal suits.

The EC’s attempt to bring forward the election date a month earlier, as part of a new transition arrangement which enjoyed civil society support, was also thwarted as the two thirds majority required by parliament to pass the proposed amendment was not secured.

The last of the legal battles took place about a month ago, after the Commission sort to disqualify 10 of 14 presidential candidates who had filed to contest this year’s elections. Legal challenges mounted by some of the affected parties, compelled the Commission to revisit the filing process that enabled three of the earlier disqualified parties, the PNC, PPP and NDP to get back onto the ballot paper.
These issues have nursed some mistrust for the Commission and also made its first woman Chair, Mrs. Charlotte Osei unpopular barely a year and a half after the 47-year old lawyer was appointed to succeed her predecessor Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Djan who attained the retirement age of 70.

Key campaign issues
Top on the campaign issues this year, is jobs. The two main parties are promising to create jobs if they win, targeting youth unemployment. The strongest trump card by the opposition against the government is the issue of corruption pointing to several alleged corruption scandals while the incumbent is campaigning based on the various infrastructure projects undertaken.

Electoral challenges
Voters are expected to queue from the early hours of tomorrow before polls open at 7am. The major challenge that confronted voting in the last general elections was the malfunctioning of some biometric verification devices compelling voting to be extended into a second day in some polling stations. That was the first time Ghana used the biometric verification machines. To cure this challenge, the Commission has promised to provide at least a spare device at each polling centre.

There was early voting on Thursday December 1, for people expected to be playing various roles on the election day itself. They included security personnel, journalists, election observers and electoral officers. The special voting was not without incidents as many complained that they could not find their names on the register prepared for the early voting leading to a second day of voting on Sunday, December 4.

There are concerns that the challenges that fraught the early voting may extend to the main polls. However the Chair of the Commission, has in a press conference assured the public their preparedness for a smooth, free and fair elections.

Follow @ghanaelections on twitter for the latest news and updates on Ghana 2016 elections

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