ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ghana’s longtime opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency late Friday on his third run for the office, a race that was largely seen as a referendum on how the incumbent party had managed the economy in this long stable democracy.
The country’s election commission said Akufo-Addo received 53.8 percent of the vote, compared to 44.4 percent for President John Dramani Mahama. It was the largest margin of victory by a presidential candidate since 1996, upending pre-election predictions that the race would be neck and neck.
After the announcement, thousands of Akufo-Addo’s supporters converged on his residence in the capital of Accra to celebrate and listen to the president-elect deliver his victory speech.
“There’s never been a more humbling moment in my life,” Akufo-Addo said. “I make this solemn pledge to you tonight: I will not let you down. I will do everything in my power to live up to your hopes and expectations.”
Akufo-Addo went on to commend Ghanaians for the “mature, peaceful and orderly manner” in which they exercised their right to vote.
“The democratic credentials of our nation have been further enhanced by your conduct,” he added, addressing Ghanaians.
Mahama’s concession solidifies Ghana’s status as a model of democracy in West Africa, a region historically plagued by coups and strongman rule. Ghana has experienced a peaceful transition of power every time there has been a change in government since the country moved to democratic rule in 1992.
Sandra Kwakye, a 38-year-old businesswoman in Accra, told The Associated Press that she is hopeful for the future now that there has been a change in government.
“I’m so happy and grateful because we’ve all been facing hardships for a long time, but we know now that we will have a good president,” she said. “(Akufo-Addo) will make everything better for us. That’s what he promised.”
Mahama called Akufo-Addo to concede defeat shortly before the commission’s announcement. He also delivered a concession speech in which he congratulated Akufo-Addo and promised to remain committed to the unity and stability of the country.
“I want to assure the people of Ghana of my commitment to the sustenance of our country’s democracy and would work to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition for the incoming administration. As president, I’ve done my bit,” Mahama said as party supporters surrounded him.
It took almost 72 hours for the commission to declare a winner, leaving many Ghanaians skeptical about the delay and impatient for a verdict. The commission, however, acknowledged that it had performed its duty within the scheduled time frame and that it was on par with previous elections.
Before Wednesday’s election, the opposition had emphasized Ghana’s high unemployment levels and underperforming GDP growth rates to appeal to frustrated voters.
Mahama defended his record, hinging his campaign on plans to boost economic growth and continue modest gains in infrastructure development. A change in government, he said, would reverse the progress made during the last four years.