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Carter Center Delegation Observes Ghana's Peaceful, Historic Elections

More than 50 Carter Center observers witnessed Ghana's Dec. 7 elections, the results of which will determine the country's next president and parliament.

"Ghana is changing leadership peacefully from one president to another," said John Stremlau, Carter Center vice president for peace programs. "This is historic for Ghana and a sign of a maturing democracy. Africa needs such examples of successful democratic elections."

Observers reported enthusiastic voters across the country; some people even spent the night in front of their polling stations to be first in line.

"These elections are important to my country, and I couldn't wait to vote," said Gregory, a voter in Accra who had slept on the cement outside of his polling place. "Plus, I want my candidate to win."

Ghana, the first African colony to achieve independence, has held five elections since ending military rule in 1992. Current Ghana President John Kufour is stepping down after two terms in office.

The election is expected to be very close and results are due by Dec. 10. If no candidate receives 50 percent plus one of the votes, a runoff will have to take place by late-December.

The Carter Center's delegation debriefed on Dec. 8 to share their findings among the entire group. Their report will form the basis of the Center's preliminary report on Ghana's elections, which will be released on Dec. 9.

Overall, the Center's observers visited more than 300 polling stations on election day, witnessing the opening, voting, and closing of voting across the country.

"As international observers we try to independently verify that the election process is conducted in a transparent and credible way," said David Carroll, director of the Center's Democracy Program.

The Carter Center's delegation was led by former Botswana President Quett Masire and former Prime Minister of Tanzania Justice Joseph Warioba, who visited sites in southern Ghana and Accra.

As polls closed at one polling station in central Accra, hundreds of onlookers watched the counting process, cheering and celebrating as the stack of ballots for their candidate grew. Such peaceful enthusiasm also was reported in many parts of the country.

Working in Ghana since 1986, The Carter Center assists the Ghana National Guinea Worm Eradication Programme and also observed the 1992 elections.

The Carter Center has now observed 72 elections in 28 countries.

Dec. 1, 2008: Carter Center Delegation Arrives in Ghana Dec. 2 to Observe Sunday's Election >>

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