Five people have been killed in election violence in Ghana as tensions boil over during a tightly contested race that both sides say they are on track to win.
The Ghanaian Police Service said it recorded more than 60 incidents at Monday’s vote, in which President Nana Akufo-Addo ran for re-election against his main rival, former President John Mahama, and 10 other candidates.
“Twenty-one of the incidents are true cases of electoral violence, six of which involve gunshots resulting in the death of five,” it said.
Independent observers this week congratulated Ghana for conducting largely peaceful polls, in line with its reputation as one of West Africa’s most stable democracies.
But tensions have risen as the camps of Mahama and Akufo-Addo say their tallies show their candidate in the lead.
“There were issues on election day about the procedure of voting, then immediately after the voting there were complaints about the way the result were being sorted out,” Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Accra, said.
Supporters of the opposition party, the National Democratic Congress, protest outside Ghana’s electoral commission [Francis Kokoroko/Reuters]“What we are hearing right now is that in the city of Tamale there has been protests going on by the opposition party claiming there were some irregularities and attempts to subvert with the will of people.
“Here in the capital of Accra too we understand that there has been an incident at the headquarters of the electoral commission. And we have seen in the last few minutes or so that the military police and other paramilitary organisation are ensuring that there is no breakdown of law and order.”
Official results from the election commission are expected later on Wednesday.
Polling on Monday was viewed by observers as generally free and fair, but the political climate soured late on Tuesday when Mahama accused his rival of showing “credentials that are very undemocratic”.
Akufo-Addo, he alleged, had harnessed the military in a bid to sway the outcome.
“You cannot use the military to try and overturn some of the results in constituencies that we have won. We will resist any attempts to subvert the sovereign will of the Ghanaian people,” the 62-year-old former president said.
Mahama made the accusations after rumours circulated on social media that he had conceded defeat.
Hours earlier, the presidency – releasing an unofficial tally – claimed Akufo-Addo was ahead with 52.25 percent of the vote, against Mahama’s 46.44 percent.
Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah told a news conference allegations of intimidation by soldiers were false.
He also bluntly rejected Mahama’s claim that his centre-left National Democratic Congress (NDC) had won a majority, of 140 seats, in the 275-member parliament.
“No candidates at this stage should undermine the work of the EC [electoral commission], it is irresponsible and it would endanger the peace of this country,” Oppong Nkrumah warned.
The European Union’s chief observer, Javier Nart, told a news conference on Wednesday that “Ghanaians voted freely”.
Security forces stand guard amid demonstrations [Francis Kokoroko/Reuters]“While there were isolated violent incidents, both on election day and during the campaign … fears of violence and vigilantism, fortunately, didn’t materialise. They were minor isolated incidents, some of them tragic ones.”
Mahama and Akufo-Addo, 76, are old rivals who have faced off at the ballot box twice before.
Mahama was president for four years until 2016 before being succeeded by Akufo-Addo. Both of those elections were determined by small margins.