The first regional results Wednesday in Ghana’s elections pointed to a tight race for the presidency after the two main camps traded heated words over accusations of electoral fraud.
The electoral commission published results from seven out of the country’s 16 regions, pointing to a narrow lead by opposition candidate John Mahama over outgoing president Nana Akufo-Addo.
Monday’s presidential and parliamentary vote, in a country viewed as a beacon of democracy in West Africa, has been viewed by observers as generally free and fair.
But Mahama late Tuesday accused Akufo-Addo of showing “credentials that are very undemocratic” and harnessing the military 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.
He 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 press conference that allegations of intimidation by soldiers were false.
He also bluntly rejected Mahama’s claim that his party 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.
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.
Despite the sharp words, Ghana has a history of electoral stability and grievances are typically pursued through the courts.
Akufo-Addo and Mahama on Friday signed a symbolic peace pact, which the 15-nation regional bloc ECOWAS urged “all political parties and their leadership to respect.”
In a statement, the Economic Community of West African States said, “We appeal to political parties and their followers to refrain from any conduct that may undermine the succesful conclusion of electoral process.”