ACCRA, Ghana (AP) ? President John Dramani Mahama was declared the winner Sunday of Ghana's recent presidential election, according to provisional results, despite widespread technical glitches with the machines used to identify voters, and over the protest of the country's opposition, which alleges vote-rigging.
Armored tanks surrounded Ghana's electoral commission and police barricaded the road around the electoral offices as the election body's chairman Kwadwo Afari-Gyan announced that Mahama had polled 5.5 million votes, or 50.7 percent.
Opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo, who lost the 2008 election by less than 1 percent, came in second with 5.2 million votes, or 47.7 percent, Afari-Gyan said. Voter turnout was high, with more than 80 percent of the roughly 14 million registered voters casting ballots in Friday's presidential and parliamentary election.
Ghana has one of the longest traditions of democracy in this troubled corner of Africa, but Friday's election was fraught, after biometric machines used to identify voters through their fingerprints failed to work in scores of polling stations, forcing officials to extend voting into a second day. The opposition accuses the ruling party of using the disorder caused by the technical failure to rig the election.
Ghanaians are deeply attached to their tradition of democracy, and international observers are already calling Friday's election the sixth transparent vote in the country's history. No other country in the region has had as many free and fair votes.
The nation of 25 million is on tenterhooks, however, with many saying that its history of democratic progress can easily be derailed, just as it was in nearby Mali, a nation that was also considered a model democracy until a coup d'etat by junior officers this spring. The outcome of the election will hinge on whether the 68-year-old Akufo-Addo, who lost the election five years ago by a razor-thin margin, will accept the results. Analysts believe that this is a make-or-break election for the lifelong politician, due to his age.
"We won, they are sore losers. They wanted (the electoral commission) to postpone announcement of the results and (the chairman) said there is no reason to postpone. There was no foundation for their allegations," said Mahama's presidential adviser, Tony Aidoo, shortly before the results were announced. He added that their allegations of vote rigging "was a plan to create mayhem, and mayhem will come.... They had such high expectations of coming back to power."
Earlier on Sunday, police fired tear gas and stun guns to fight back opposition supporters. Scores took to Accra's streets, calling on the national electoral body to carry out an audit, and asking them to withhold final results until an investigation is completed.
"Considering the closeness of the polls this error is very significant and goes to the heart of the credibility of the results. Indeed, we have enough concrete evidence to show that the 2012 presidential election was won by our candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo," said Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, chairman of the party.
People in Ghana's capital have been glued to their radios since Friday night as local media announce results from polling stations. International observers endorsed the elections, calling them credible despite delays because of machines used to identify voters through their fingerprints failed to work in numerous precincts, pushing voting into a second day Saturday.
"There were hiccups but not such that would grossly undermine the result of the election," said former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who led the delegation from ECOWAS, the bloc representing nations in West Africa.
"All of Africa was looking at Ghana to make sure that they live up to their reputation and their name of being a mature democracy," said Ahmed Issak Hassan, head of an observer mission from the South Africa-based Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa.
Ghana, a nation rich in oil, cocoa and gold, was once a troubled nation that suffered five coups and decades of stagnation, before turning a corner in the 1990s. It is now a pacesetter for the continent's efforts to become democratic.
The incumbent Mahama, a former vice president, was catapulted into office in July after the unexpected death of President John Atta Mills. Before becoming vice president in 2009, the 54-year-old Mahama served as a minister and a member of parliament. He's also written an acclaimed biography, recalling Ghana's troubled past, called "My First Coup d'Etat."
Akufo-Addo is a former foreign minister and the son of one of Ghana's previous presidents.
Both candidates are trying to make the case that they will use the nation's oil riches to help the poor. Besides being one of the few established democracies in the region, Ghana also has the fastest-growing economy. Oil was discovered in 2007 and the country began producing it in December 2010. But a deep divide still exists between those benefiting from the country's oil, cocoa and mineral wealth, and those left behind financially.