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Ghana votes for new president to usher in oil era
Sun Dec 7, 2008 2:47pm EST
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By Kwasi Kpodo and Alistair Thomson
ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghanaians voted in large numbers on Sunday to choose between two foreign-trained lawyers hoping to lead them into an era of oil-funded prosperity in a tight poll that may set an example for African democracy.
Observers said voting was generally peaceful despite delays in some areas and violence at a handful of polling stations.
Successful polls would be a boost for democracy in Africa after electoral bloodshed in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria, and would underpin a country that has become one of Africa's brightest investment prospects due to its political stability.
Blue-clad Electoral Commission workers at the Richard Akwei Memorial School polling station in the coastal capital Accra said a prayer, emptied hundreds of ballot papers onto a table and counted them out loud, to cheers from a crowd of onlookers.
Provisional results are expected mid-week, but local media are likely to broadcast early voting trends before then.
Many voters queued from the early hours for the 7 a.m. (0700 GMT) start.
"I was here at 3:15 a.m. I'm anxious for my party to win," Gregoire Adukpo, 62, a retired private security official, said at a polling station set up at a Catholic church.
Local radio stations reported that delays distributing vote materials by helicopter meant voting started hours late and may be extended in some islands in Lake Volta, one of the biggest man-made lakes in the world.
The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) said it was concerned by the delays and other irregularities.
"Voter turnout is going to be very high. I should expect a higher number than we saw in the last elections because I could see this one is very competitive," Electoral Commission Chairman Kwadwo Afari-Gyan said. Turnout in 2004 was a record 85 percent.
President John Kufuor, who turns 70 on Monday, is standing down on January 7 after serving the maximum two terms.
"What excites me is that I've ended my tenure, I believe, on a good note with the entire nation showing readiness to help select my successor and members of the next parliament," he said after voting near his home in one of Accra's most exclusive areas.
He has asked Ghanaians to hand a first-round win to his New Patriotic Party's (NPP) chosen successor Nana Akufo-Addo, a British-trained lawyer and son of a former president.
Seven other candidates are standing but many people expect a December 28 run-off between Akufo-Addo and main opposition candidate and tax law expert John Atta Mills, of the center-left NDC. Continued...
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