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Friday, December 9, 2016

Ghana elections marred by hacked website and calls for the President to concede

Ghana's presidential elections Wednesday started off surprisingly well, with voters lining up hours early at some polling places - using stones to save their place in line. Then it all came apart. First, the electoral commission's website was hacked and announced that the main opposition candidate, the New Patriotic Party's Nana Akufo-Addo, had won the day, forcing the commission to frantically tweet for voters to ignore the fake news. Though votes were still being counted Thursday, the Akufo-Addo camp announced Thursday that, according to its tabulations, Akufo-Addo did in fact have a strong lead. 

They called for the incumbent, President John Mahama, who's been in power since 2012, to concede. That didn't sit well. Mahama's camp called the calls for concession "treasonable." The electoral commission said it needs more time to finish counting all the votes and declare a winner. The NPP said Thursday that further delay might cause suspicion over the integrity of the election's outcome - after all the candidates had promised to respect the process.

The Electoral Commission, meanwhile, went back to tweeting out provisional district by district election results. It was an unhappy end to what looked like a promising development in Ghanaian democracy. The electoral commission got new leadership and sought to boost public trust. Faced with legal challenges over, among other things, the voter registry and voter registration process, the commission opted for transparency.

As a result, said Christopher Fumonyoh, senior associate and regional director for Central and West Africa at the National Democratic Institute, all major stakeholders - from political players to members of the media - were made to feel that they understood the process, and that the process was fair and transparent.

Whether it ends as peacefully and hopefully as it began will depend on how and when the electoral commission announces the results - and whether the leading candidates honor their pledges to respect the process.

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