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The BBC's Mark Doyle in Accra
"Voters identity cards are almost always a controversial issue in African elections"
 real 28k

Monday, 4 December, 2000, 22:20 GMT
Ruling party wins Ghana court battle
New Patriotic Party supporters
The opposition said only photo cards should be used

Ghana's Supreme Court has ruled that thumb print voter identity cards will be valid in Thursday's election, in a victory for the ruling party.

The main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) had argued that use of thumb print identity cards would enable the ruling party to rig the election, a tightly fought contest following longtime leader Jerry Rawlings' decision to stand down.

The Supreme Court accepted the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) argument that, as only 80% of Ghanaians had the new photo identity cards, disallowing the old thumb print cards would disenfranchise a significant number of potential voters.

"You cannot disenfranchise 20% of eligible voters just because of photo IDs", Attorney General Obed Asamoah told the BBC.

Demonstrations

Several hundred NPP supporters demonstrated outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

They were dispersed by police using tear gas.

Ruling party supporters
The ruling party said many rural voters lack the cards

Outside the old colonial building a senior police officer said the crowd had to be cleared because they had been throwing stones.

"The people are throwing stones in the presence of the supreme court, which is supposed to be the highest court of the land," he said.

"So if we don't respect the highest court of the land then who are we going to respect?"

Close race

The demonstrators wanted the court to rule that only the newly produced voter identity cards with photographs on them should be allowed.

But the ruling party is on record as saying that older voters' cards with thumb prints on them may be used.

The issue is critical because Thursday's presidential election is expected to be the closest ever held in Ghana.

With the charismatic Mr Rawlings standing down the opposition thinks it has its best chance of winning in over 20 years.

A barrister representing Ghana's electoral commission, who addressed the court, said the thumb print cards were notoriously unreliable, and had been used fraudulently in the past.

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03 Dec 00 | Africa
Ghana campaign heats up
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