Old rivals square up again in Ghana’s tight presidential election

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Nana Akufo-Addo (left) and John Mahama (right) [File: Kola Sulaimon and Stephane de Sakutin/AFP]

(AlJazeera) – Voters in Ghana will head to the polls today to pick the country’s next president, in what is expected to be a tight race between incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo and his predecessor, John Mahama.

The two longtime rivals, who are squaring off for the third straight time as they seek a second and final term, are widely seen as the two frontrunners in a crowded field of 12 candidates.

Campaigning has largely focused on the economy, infrastructure development and the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fight against corruption has also featured prominently in the lead-up to the election during which the political rivalry that has for the last decade defined the campaigns of both Akufo-Addo, of the centrist New Patriotic Party (NPP), and Mahama, of the left-leaning National Democratic Congress (NDC), was largely on display.

Despite the heightened political tensions, the two leading candidates on Friday signed a pact for good conduct and peaceful elections at a ceremony in the capital, Accra, that was attended by traditional and religious leaders, as well as international observers.

Monday’s vote will be the eighth since Ghana’s first step towards multiparty democracy in 1992. The country has a strong record of smooth transitions of power and Ghanaians are hoping it will build on its reputation as one of West Africa’s most stable democracies.

The NPP and the NDC have peacefully exchanged power several times during the past decades but friction is high this year amid opposition allegations over the independence of the electoral commission. Last month, Mahama alleged that the body set out to organise “a flawed election” and threatened to reject the results.

Electoral officials have dismissed the opposition’s accusations of attempting to rig the elections.