December 8, 2016 / 1:05 PM / 10 months ago

Ghana opposition leader says 'quietly confident' of election victory

ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana’s main opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo said on Thursday he was “quietly confident” he had beaten President John Mahama and that his New Patriotic Party (NPP) had taken a majority of seats in parliament in this week’s election.

The electoral commission has yet to release results from Wednesday’s vote but the opposition said it had tabulated figures from individual constituencies. Officials from Mahama’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) rejected the claims and said the incumbent was on track for re-election.

Ghana, a pillar of democracy in Africa, holds closely fought and peaceful elections. Twice since 2000 voters have kicked out the government of the day.

“We in the NPP are quietly confident that we have won a famous and historic victory,” Akufo-Addo told hundreds of supporters who danced and sang in the garden of his house in the capital.

He said the NPP had gained 49 seats and would therefore control the legislature but he called for calm and urged patience to allow the electoral commission time to deliver results.

Mahama is running for a second and final term in office against the backdrop of an economy that has slowed since he took office in 2013, in part because of a slump in global prices for its exports of gold, cocoa and oil.

Akufo-Addo’s statement was the first by a major party leader since the election and reflects opposition belief that after eight years in the wilderness it has won back power.

However, it also appeared aimed at tempering NPP members’ earlier claims of an insurmountable lead for Akufo-Addo and calls for Mahama to concede defeat.

Ghanaian presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo (L) of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) talks next to his wife Rebecca after casting his vote at a polling station in Kibi, Ghana December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

“The NPP has done everything to try to bastardize the 2016 general election. We are doing our analysis and President Mahama is leading Akufo-Addo,” Koku Anyidoho, a senior NDC official, told a news conference.

Privately, senior aides to Mahama say he remained confident.

Joy FM, a private radio station, put Akufo-Addo at 51.42 percent and Mahama at 46.72 percent with 176 of 275 constituencies counted.

Polling agents stand next to ballot boxes at a collection center at the Odorkor police station in Accra, Ghana December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Online site GhanaWeb gave results for 160 constituencies and said Akufo-Addo had 55.8 percent with Mahama on 42.5 percent. Minor candidates took the other votes.

Seven candidates are contesting Ghana’s presidency. If no one wins a majority, there will be a run off between the top two.

Foreign minister Hanna Tetteh lost her parliamentary seat, local media reported.

The election tested the Ghana Electoral Commission and its new Commissioner Charlotte Osei. Observers reported almost no major problems on election day but the NPP and the National Peace Council on Thursday urged the commission to start releasing results quickly.

Osei told a news conference it had collated results from 90 constituencies and would release them, though she gave no time frame. She said technical problems had delayed other results.

“We want to assure you that we cannot change the results in any way. We cannot manipulate those results,” she said.

Editing by Joe Bavier; Editing by David Gregorio

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