Ghana goes to the polls

Ghanaians prepare to vote

As Ghanaians prepare to go to the polls to elect a new president and parliament on 7 December, it looks like it will be a tightly-fought presidential race between incumbent John Dramani Mahama of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), and former presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).

There are another six presidential candidates but none of them are seen as having a realistic chance of getting elected. The president of Ghana is elected for a four-year term using a two-round system. If there is no outright winner, a run-off will be held on 28 December.

Mahama, who hails from the Gonja ethnic group in northern Ghana, is seeking his first full presidential term after succeeding John Atta Mills, who died in office in July. His priorities include economic growth, better energy supplies, improved access to education and political decentralisation.

Akufo-Addo, from eastern Ghana, narrowly lost the 2008 election to John Atta Mills in the second round, after leading initially. A former foreign minister and the son of former president Edward Akufo-Addo, he is a founding member of the NPP. His election manifesto focuses on education, industrialisation and fighting corruption.

In early December Ghana’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) accepted the nominations of 1,332 candidates to contest the parliamentary election. Of these, 1,198 candidates are men and only 134 are women – with the highest number of female candidates in the Greater Accra region, at 34. There are 275 seats available in Ghana's unicameral parliament – an increase from 230 in previous polls.

The last election in 2008 passed off peacefully, earning Ghana widespread praise. Recently, all eight presidential candidates signed the Kumasi Declaration, a pact to uphold peace and democracy in the aftermath of the 2012 election results. Despite this, the military is not taking any chances and will have 5,000 soldiers on standby to ensure a peaceful poll.

In addition to the Kumasi Declaration, INEC introduced new measures such as biometric voting to curb irregularities and help ensure a transparent vote.

Since it became an oil producing country in 2010, Ghana has enjoyed increased revenue but there are fears that much of the nation's new wealth could be squandered through corruption.

There are some 13 million registered voters in Ghana, and anyone over 18 is eligible to vote.