Fraud Charges Mar Vote in Ghana
President claims mandate, as opponents threaten violence to protest election. WEST AFRICAN DEMOCRACY
GHANAIAN dictator Jerry Rawlings's plan to win legitimacy through the ballot box has been marred by charges of large-scale fraud and threats of violence.
The runner-up in last week's presidential election in this West African state says he is planning to present Ghana's Supreme Court with documentation to back up his claims that the government rigged the elections.
The government election commission has declared incumbent Rawlings, the two-time coup leader, the winner by 58.6 percent to 30.1 percent over his main challenger, history professor Adu Boahen.
Using the powers of the incumbency, Mr. Rawlings limited opposition access to state-run television and radio, stepped up public works programs as the elections neared, according to an international observer, and campaigned longer and harder than his
"I like Rawlings," says Daniel Balm, a technical college student living in Accra. "He knows how to manage the country. He's done many things for us. He has stopped the criminals," he adds while taking part in one of the small street demonstrations celebrating Rawlings' victory.
Opposition leaders and supporters, while admitting Rawlings still has some supporters for his brand of populism, allege that he could have won a majority and avoided a run-off, only by fraud.
Professor Boahen calls the election "one of the most highly manipulated and rigged elections in this country."
Two international observer groups, the Organization of African Unity and a group from the British Commonwealth, declared the elections fair.
But a third observer group, judged the most thorough by many Ghanaians, made a much more qualified statement. The third team, sponsored by the Carter Center of Emory University in Georgia, said it "did not encounter a systematic pattern that would suggest fraudulent conduct or the rigging of the elections."
Their statement continues: "The fundamental problems created by the use of a flawed register, and the inadequate system of voter identification makes it possible for others to attribute these irregularities to deliberate misconduct. We are not able to confirm or disconfirm these allegations."
THE Carter team did not address the issue of when an accumulation of irregularities becomes large enough to render the elections unfair.
Richard Joseph, head of the Carter team, suggests conflict can be avoided if the opposition and the government find "the middle ground" on political issues, and settle election differences through legal processes.
Opposition parties have threatened to boycott parliamentary elections in early December unless their complaints about the election are satisfied and a new voter registration list drawn up. They claim the list is padded with "ghost" voters the government uses to its advantage.
Professor Boahen's party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) also claims the ruling National Democratic Congress cheated by: allowing NDC voters to jump the voting lines, discouraging others from waiting to vote; beating up known NPP poll watchers, adjusting vote tabulations to favor their party; turning away voters with names from the large Akan tribe, considered anti-Rawlings; and using armed police to intimidate voters in opposition strongholds.
Rawlings-appointed election commission head, federal judge Josiah Ofori-Boateng, said the opposition had made "allegations, allegations, allegations - but [provided] no documentation."
After refusing to answer this reporter's questions at a press briefing he gave to announce the election results, Justice Ofori-Boateng, in his office, away from the state television cameras, said: "We counted [the votes] outside, in the presence of everyone. Opposition parties," he added, "were allowed an observer in each polling station, plus someone to witness vote tabulations at the next level."
Nevertheless, some opposition supporters threaten violence.
"We'll turn Ghana into a Liberia [where civil war is raging]," warns one angry NPP supporter.
"There's a limit to a man's patience," says another Rawlings critic Ghanaian attorney Kwasi Owusu-Yorboa. "We are now being pushed to the wall."
Other Ghanaians, both opponents and supporters, doubt the present anger will lead to conflict. And, as another losing presidential candidate, Gen. Emmanuel Erskine, points out, opponents are not armed.
But tensions are running high in Accra. On Thursday, police broke up a demonstration by Boahen supporters protesting the election results in Accra.
A few hours later, police with automatic weapons confronted opposition party leaders and supporters as they were leaving a press conference by Boahen.
"Maybe they [the opposition] will mellow later on," Ofori-Boateng says.
Until recently Rawlings was a flight lieutenant in Ghana's military. He resigned to run as a civilian. He first seized power in a coup in 1979, stepping down for an elected government. But on Dec. 31, 1981, he seized power again, citing corruption and economic mismanagement.1