TAIN, GHANA // Residents of a single district that could decide the outcome of Ghana's presidential election cast their ballots today, despite attempts by the ruling party to stop the vote. Voters in the tiny western district of Tain were unable to vote in Sunday's tight nationwide runoff because not enough ballots were distributed to polling stations there. After a near-complete tally of more than 9 million ballots from all the other districts of the West African nation, opposition leader John Atta Mills is ahead of his ruling party rival Nana Akufo-Addo by only around 23,000 votes.
About 53,000 people are registered to vote in Tain, so ballots there could now sway the election either way. During the Dec 7 first round, Mr Atta Mills narrowly won Tain, by 16,211 votes to Mr Akufo-Addo's 14,935. It is not clear when the Electoral Commission will announce final results and a winner, but vote counting in Tain is expected to start immediately after polls close around 5pm. Both sides have claimed irregularities in other districts as well, however, and those challenges may be brought to court and lead to the postponement of the announcement of a winner.
Yesterday, Mr Akufo-Addo's party threatened to boycott the Tain vote, claiming its supporters in the area were being intimidated by opposition members. A ruling party lawyer, Atta Akyea, said Mr Akufo-Addo's legal team had filed a court injunction seeking to stop voting in Tain but there was no indication the vote would be cancelled and Electoral Commission officials could not be reached for comment.
Ruling party lawyers also said they wanted results from Tain delayed until their claims of irregularities elsewhere were investigated. "The election is supposed to be free and fair and as a result, under the current circumstances ... we won't take part in the election," ruling party spokesman Arthur Kennedy said. Local television and radio gave no indication of possible violence in the district, where the situation appeared normal. Both candidates are 64-year-old lawyers and both were educated in Britain. They are vying to succeed the president John Kufuor, who must step down after serving two terms. Mr Akufo-Addo campaigned on his party's success in driving the economy of the world's No. 2 cocoa producer and the latest African nation to discover oil. Mr Atta Mills - who served as a vice president under former coup leader Jerry Rawlings - accuses the governing party of corruption.