Ghana is calling for a tight presidential election when old rivals compete

More than 17 million people are eligible to vote in Ghana’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Monday with the contest for the best job expected to be a close battle between incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo and longtime opponent John Mahama.

Nestled along the Gulf of Guinea, Ghana – long a beacon for democracy and stability in West Africa – has ensured peaceful transfers of power on seven occasions since its return to democracy almost 30 years ago.

The two major parties have always accepted the election results and pursued any complaints through the courts.

To ensure its continued tradition of peaceful voting, Akufo-Addo, 76, and Mahama, 62, signed a symbolic peace treaty on Friday.

They are among 12 candidates, including three women, who participate.

“Given the events on the continent, and indeed in West Africa, the whole world looks up to us to maintain our status as a beacon for democracy, peace and stability,” Akufo-Addo said in a televised address on Sunday night.

Voters will vote for a new president and MPs for 275 constituencies between 7:00 and 17:00 at 38,000 polling stations across the country.

Important issues include unemployment, infrastructure, education and health.

Ghana has made great strides in the last two decades and has become the world’s second largest cocoa-producing country, but many still live in extreme poverty with scarce access to clean water or electricity.

Strongly affected by the pandemic, the nation’s growth of 30 million people is expected to fall this year to the lowest level in three decades, to 0.9 percent according to the International Monetary Fund, a sharp decline from 6.5 percent growth in 2019.

Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Mahama of the National Democratic Congress party (NDC) have already met at the ballot box three times.

That executive has received high marks for his handling of the pandemic and his record of free education and improved access to electricity.

But he has disappointed some in his performance when it comes to tackling transplants – the key issue he was chosen for four years ago.

Despite this, corruption is a difficult issue for Mahama to hang on to, as he himself left the office under a cloud of transplant allegations.

Mahama has also been criticized for poor financial decisions and accumulating unsustainable debt.

But the skilled communicator has removed the criticism and given ambitious promises to build infrastructure, create jobs and modernize the country.

A bold move by Mahama chose former Education Minister Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang as a running mate, the first woman on the ticket to a major party.

The winner must secure 50 percent of the votes plus one. The results could be known as early as 24 hours after the voting closed, although the election commission said the time frame was not in stone.