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Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Saturday, 3 January 2009

Opposition leader wins Ghana poll

John Atta Mills
Mr Atta Mills won 50.23% of the votes, the electoral commission said

Opposition candidate John Atta Mills has won a tight presidential run-off in Ghana, saying he will be "a president for all".

Electoral officials announced the result after the last constituency to vote showed him extending his lead over his rival, Nana Akufo-Addo.

Mr Akufo-Addo congratulated Mr Atta Mills, but a spokesman said the party would challenge the result in court.

Officials say there was no evidence of vote-rigging, as alleged by both sides.

Street celebrations in Accra

The run-off, with the last vote held in Tain constituency, was closely watched as Ghana remains a rare example of a functioning democracy in West Africa.

The ruling party had boycotted the Tain constituency vote.

Celebration

The electoral commission said the results of the run-off showed Mr Atta Mills had won narrowly with 50.23% of the votes, against 49.77% for Mr Akufo-Addo.

RIVALS AT A GLANCE
Election candidates John Atta Mills (left) and Nana Akufo-Addo (composite image)
JOHN ATTA MILLS (left)
Age: 64
Party: National Democratic Congress
Executive posts: Vice-president 1997-2000
Profession: University professor
Hobbies: Hockey, swimming
Family: Married with one child
NANA AKUFO-ADDO (right)
Age: 64
Party: New Patriotic Party
Executive posts: Attorney general 2001-03; foreign affairs minister 2003-07
Profession: Lawyer
Family: Married with five children

"On the basis of the official results given, it is my duty to declare Professor John Evans Atta Mills the president-elect of the Republic of Ghana," the commission's head, Kwado Afari-Gyan, said in the capital, Accra.

He said the commission had considered allegations of vote-rigging by both sides but "did not find the evidence provided sufficient to invalidate the result".

Outgoing President John Kufuor earlier urged both candidates to respect the final result.

He appealed for calm and said any complaints of vote-rigging should be dealt with by the courts after the new president is expected to be sworn in on Wednesday.

Addressing jubilant supporters on the streets of Accra around the NDC headquarters, Mr Atta Mills, who had failed twice before to become president, said: "The time has come to work together to build a better Ghana.

"I assure Ghanaians that I will be president for all."

He also congratulated "all other contestants, especially Nana Akufo-Addo, for giving us a good fight."

Although Ghana remains a very divided nation when it comes to choosing a president, it has proved that democracy can work, BBC correspondent Will Ross in Accra says.

Mr Atta Mills, aged 64, is a former vice-president. He lost two previous elections to President Kufuor.

Mr Akufo-Addo, also 64, from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) won the first round of the presidential election but not by enough to avoid the run-off.

On Saturday, he told reporters: "I acknowledge the electoral commissioner's declaration and congratulate Professor Mills," Reuters news agency reported.

A spokesman later told the BBC that, contrary to earlier reports, he had not conceded defeat, and that the ruling party would go to court to contest the result.

Analysts says Ghana's poll could help salvage the tarnished image of constitutional democracy in Africa, after last year's flawed elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe and military coups in Mauritania and Guinea.

The stakes have been raised in these elections because Ghana has just found oil, which is expected to start generating revenue in 2010.



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SEE ALSO
Ghana voters' views
03 Jan 09 |  Africa
Q&A: Ghana election run-off
22 Dec 08 |  Africa
Country profile: Ghana
04 Dec 08 |  Country profiles

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