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Biometric problems add to Ghana election bottleknecks

By Patrick Smith
Posted on Friday, 7 December 2012 17:49

The election started early in the Mamprobi suburb of Accra. The first person in the voters’ line got there at one in the morning. Another keen voter complained to us that by the time he arrived – some two hours later – that there were already 60 people in the queue.

By early morning, there was already an upbeat mood in Accra. It was a national holiday and hopefully a chance for people’s power. More than its predecessors, this year’s election in Ghana was an issues-based contest. And with the prospect of billions of dollars of oil and gas earnings, politicians have been holding forth on their plans for national transformation. Top of the list nationally, were promises of free education and health care and jobs for young people.

In Mamprobi, one of the poorer suburbs of Accra, those issues are magnified tenfold. A few decades ago, the area was a string of thriving fishing villages quite separate from the capital. Now the area has become part of the Accra’s outlying suburbs but its economic based has declined.

The fishermen struggle to pay for “pre-mix” (the fuel) for their fishing boats, and there are few new businesses starting up in the area. In the Ablekuma contituency, which serves over 100,000 people, there is just one state secondary school for some 50,000 children of school age.

This explains why so many people in Mamprobi woke up so early to cast their vote. Sadly the voters’ enthusiasm – in Mamprobi and elsewhere – wasn’t matched by the efficiency of the electoral commission. Although voting was meant to start across the country at seven, in some constituencies voting was delayed by two to three hours because of shortages of electoral materials.

One problem was new technology. Although the new biometric voter identification machines had detected several attempts to vote twice, they brought their own problems of reliability. In two polling stations we visited in Mamprobi, the biometric machines had broken down holding up voting for over an hour. By then tempers were beginning to flare and irate voters were asking why the electoral commission could not bring in any substitutes.

The election in the Ablekuma South constituency, which takes in a large part of the Mamprobi suburb, is a good signifier for the larger national contest. Here the national political behemoths – the incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) – do battle with their well-filled campaign chests but the smaller parties are putting up a feisty defiance.

The NDC’s media supremo and former television comedian Fritz Baffour is the NDC’s candidate and incumbent MP, while NPP is putting up a younger and more abrasive candidate Noel Joseph Narh. Both those candidates’ campaigns have been hampered by factionalism within their own parties, and their tendency to rely on the national pulling power of their parties’ operation.

That could give the smaller Nkrumahist parties – the Convention People’s Party (CPP) which is fielding Dede-Esi Amanor and the People’s National Convention which is fielding Godfred Agyemang – a chance to make their mark. Amanor, in particular, has been running a grassroots election campaign, based on community meetings, door-to-door calls to discuss the area’s problems and priorities. lithuanian translator – translate english to lithuanian

Further down the coast, Kwame Nkrumah’s daughter and leader of the CPP Samia Nkrumah, looks set to retain her MP’s seat – a prospect which has fired up other Nkrumahist candidates across the country. Siginificantly, they claim that much of the support is coming from younger voters.

How far that support will translate into votes and seats in the 275-member parliament will be clear over the weekend. The electoral commission says they expect most parliamentary results within 48 hours and presidential results within 72 hours.

If the commission keeps to its schedule, Ghanaians should know by Monday morning whether they will have a new ruling party and the political colours of the new enlarged parliament.

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