Ghana opposition to contest poll results

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By FRANCIS KOKUTSE and LAURA BURKE, Associated Press

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Ghana's opposition party said Tuesday that they plan to contest the results of the recent presidential election, ignoring the appeals of the international community, which fears that a protracted political fight could destabilize one of the only established democracies in the region.

Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, the chairman of the New Patriotic Party, whose candidate lost last Friday's election, said that the party has widespread evidence of fraud. The results published by the election commission handed victory to incumbent President John Dramani Mahama with 50.7 percent of the vote.

"With the abundant evidence we have gathered, the (party) cannot therefore accept the declared results of the election," said Lamptey. "The party has instructed its legal team to file a petition in the supreme court."

The opposition said the widespread technical glitches that occurred with the biometric machines used to identify voters through their fingerprints created an opportunity for the ruling party to rig the vote. Officials were forced to extend voting into a second day in scores of polling stations due to the malfunctioning equipment, but despite the disorder caused by the delay, international observers say the vote was transparent overall.

Opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo came in second with 47.7 percent of the vote. He lost the 2008 presidential election by less than 1 percent, making his loss in this month's election ever more painful. Analysts say that this was the last chance for the 68-year-old career politician, the son of a former president of Ghana.

On Monday, the president of the African Union, Yayi Boni, made a point of stopping by Akufo-Addo's house to convince him to concede defeat in the interest of safeguarding Ghana's reputation for peace. Ghana, a nation of 25 million on Africa's western seaboard, remains one of the few established and stable democracies in the region, following the unexpected devolution of the Malian state, which until a coup eight months ago was also considered a model democracy.

The opposition held a rally attended by thousands of people in a roundabout in Accra. Party General-Secretary Kwadwo Owusi-Afriyie said: "We shall continue to protest on this ground until the results are changed."

He added that they had heard that the government plans to arrest party leaders and warned that "we would make the country ungovernable if they dared."

Akufo-Addo told The Associated Press in an interview on Monday that his party has compiled data from polling stations which they are comparing with the published results.

"All of the information we have, the primary data, the results of the polling stations are consistently not tallying with many of the declared results," said Akufo-Addo. "It would seem to be a serious case for saying that something has gone wrong," he said.

International observers from the African Union and the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States, have endorsed the election as free and fair.

"There were hiccups but not such that would grossly undermine the result of the election," said Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian president and head of both observer missions.

Akufo-Addo countered that there were only 2,500 observers in the country for 26,000 polling stations and they could not check all stations for discrepancies.

Observers are concerned that Ghana's status as a model of democracy in West Africa could be compromised if the opposition challenges the results and calls for street protests. Thousands of riot police fanned out across the capital and the country ahead of Tuesday's announcement by the opposition, but despite the heightened security presence, the streets remained calm.

Ghana's former President Jerry John Rawlings said there is a need to look into the opposition's accusations of rigging. "Much as l am happy that President Mahama has won, the complaints that have been made must be taken seriously to make sure that everything is investigated," he said.

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