Ghana's example: Free and fair elections choose a president

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Standing in contrast to many African states that continue to be ruled by undemocratically chosen leaders, Ghana, on Friday and Saturday, elected its 13th president, a civilian, John Mahama, 54, in apparently free and fair presidential and legislative elections.

Mr. Mahama, leading the National Democratic Congress, received 50.7 percent or 5.5 million of the votes cast. Finishing second was Nana Akufo-Addo, 68, who received 47.7 percent or 5.2 million votes. It was close enough that Mr. Akufo-Addo's party, the New Patriotic Party, is claiming fraud, a charge not supported by Ghana's own electoral commission or the various representatives of international organizations who observed the elections.

Mr. Mahama was the incumbent, but only by a few months, having succeeded as vice president to the presidency when Ghana's previous president, John Atta Mills died in July. He will now serve a new four-year term. Turnout was about 80 percent of the 14 million registered voters of the country of 25 million. It has borders with Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Togo with a seacoast on the Gulf of Guinea, on the Atlantic Ocean.

Ghana, called the Gold Coast under British rule until 1957, had a rocky early history. Its most famous president was Kwame Nkrumah, an early advocate of a united Africa. Ghana is basically a wealthy country for its size but Mr. Nkrumah ran through its wealth quickly, until he was overthrown.

Ghana discovered offshore oil and gas in 2007, which went into production in 2010, making the question of what to do with its newfound wealth one of the major questions in the electoral campaign. It also grows cocoa and has other mineral wealth, including gold. Mr. Mahama's main opponent, Mr. Akufo-Addo, the son of a previous president, favored using it to offer free education to all Ghanaians up to the senior high school level. Mr. Mahama, having reached office through solid, honest elections, is unlikely to join some of the African continent's other oil-rich despots, including the leaders of Angola, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Nigeria, in perpetuating the gap between personally rich rulers and a poor overall population. Ghana has been down that road, didn't like it, and continues steadily to build democratic traditions.

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