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08ACCRA1543 2008-12-09 15:34:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Accra
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DE RUEHAR #1543/01 3441534
P 091534Z DEC 08
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ACCRA 001543 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/09/2018

Classified By: POL CHIEF GARY PERGL FOR REASONS 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) SUMMARY. Ghanaians voted last Sunday for President
and members of Parliament in an election that was remarkably
orderly and peaceful. The Electoral Commission, true to its
word, was well prepared, and very few problems were reported
throughout the day. The presidential election, two days
after the vote, is still too close to call, with 197 out of
230 constituencies counted. The ruling National Patriotic
Party (NPP) candidate Nana Akufo-Addo has 49.62 percent of
the vote, while the opposition National Democratic Congress
(NDC) candidate John Atta-Mills has 47.34 percent. The big
stories are the possibility that the opposition party will
take over control of Parliament with a gain of 22 seats
(while the NPP stands to lose 16 seats), the fall of several
prominent members of Parliament and government Ministers, and
the virtual shutout of third party candidate Papa Kwesi Nduom
of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP). The US Mission
fielded some 100 observers in all regions; all of them
reported a free and fair election at the polling stations
they observed, and all have returned safely. While all has
gone well so far, the election is not over until a winner has
been declared, and we and other players are refraining from
commenting on the nature of the election until the fat lady
has sung. END SUMMARY

2. (U) Almost all 22,000 polling stations opened on time,
and were fully staffed with the requisite Electoral
Commission (EC) presiding officer and assistants who had
ballots, ballot boxes, voting booths, voter registers and
indelible ink at the ready. Mission observers were in place
before polls opened at 7 a.m. to observe opening preparations
at a selected polling station in the constitutencies which we
had decided to target. In the north, our observers reported
a heavy security presence in areas such as Tamale, Bawku,
Yendi, and Bolgatanga, which had been considered possible
flashpoints. Throughout the country, any time a dispute
arose, the rapid response forces put together for election
security arrived quickly and restored calm.

3. (U) Voters in many areas began lining up as early as 4
a.m., and many observers reported long lines of voters at the
beginning of the polling day. Those lines tended to diminish
in most areas, although some polling places, especially those
with a large number of transfer voters around universities,
had to remain open long after the polls closed at 5 p.m. to
allow everyone to cast their votes. For the most part,
voters waited patiently in line, sometimes for many hours,
without registering complaint. The voter register was not a
point of contention, an issue that had been considered a
potential problem area prior to polling day. From all
accounts, voter turnout was heavy. Party polling agents for
the two major parties, who play an important watchdog role,
seemed to be well trained and present in all polling stations.

4. (U) Radio and television stations provided extensive,
almost non-stop coverage of the elections, with
correspondents reporting from all regions. As soon as ballot
counting began, stations broadcast results, polling station
by polling station, then constituency by constituency, and
that is continuing even today. All in all, the media did a
superb job of informing, remaining impartial, and maintaining
calm during the entire process.

5. (U) We have checked with the European Union delegation,
the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, and observer
teams from other diplomatic missions in Ghana. All have
reported similar findings to ours. With the exception of
minor scuffles at a few polling stations, the election itself
was a model of decorum and tranquility. We have heard no
reports of violence or physical injury. Police and military
moved in to do some crowd control in Tamale and Bawku, but
both situations were brought under control quickly.

6. (U) A real possibility of a huge shift in parliamentary
seats has been the big story of this election. Incumbent MPs
appear to be losing a large number of seats, especially on
the NPP side, and the ruling party may actually lose control
of Parliament. Of 155 constituencies so far reported, NPP
incumbents have lost 20 seats (they have gained seats in
other areas previously held by NDC), while NDC incumbents
have lost 12 seats. This was an unexpected turn of events,
and would appear to show a real sophistication on the part of
Ghanaian voters, who apparently aren't terribly impressed by
the fact that you are a Minister if you are not taking care
of the folks back home. At least three parliamentary
contests appear to be headed to the high courts to settle
disputes based on flawed recounts, missing ballot boxes, or
other discrepancies. The opposition NDC party is predicting
that they will win 116 seats of the 230 in Parliament, to

ACCRA 00001543 002 OF 002

squeeze out a one-seat majority. So far, their math appears
good to us.

7. (U) The NDC issued two press statements yesterday,
asserting that from their reading of returns, they had won
the election, and questioning the amount of time it was
taking the Electoral Commission to announce results (with the
implication that the delay was due to vote fixing). The NPP
issued a strong rebuke to the first NDC statement, but was
more measured in responding to the second (and even more
inflammatory) declaration, saying that everyone should await
the results from the EC. The EC chairman also came out with
a pointed statement condemning the NDC's premature
declaration of victory, saying only he is authorized to
announce results. Several other NGOs and media commentators
have also condemned the NDC's inappropriate comments, which
should serve to fend off any further posturing from the party.

8. (C) COMMENT: Although we are pleased with the conduct
of the election so far, we and other major players are
holding back on pronouncements regarding the nature of the
elections. It is not too late for the two parties to do
something foolish. Early judgment also risks being
misinterpreted by the parties as an endorsement of their
early claims of victory. Most importantly, the Electoral
Commission will be strengthened by being seen as the major
player in the election. Although some observer groups,
including the Carter Center, European Union, and ECOWAS, have
made statements today, they discussed only the conduct of
polling day. They will hold back on the election as a whole
until final results are known.