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Ghana heads for vote after endorsement controversy

ACCRA: Ghana’s crunch presidential campaign saw a last-minute controversy over a key endorsement yesterday.
During his final rally Wednesday, main opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo told the crowd the wife of influential ex-leader Jerry Rawlings had endorsed him in Friday’s vote — a move which would have been a surprise if true.
However, Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party was later forced to issue an apology, explaining he had been misinformed.
“It transpires that the information was inaccurate and that Nana Konadu had not expressly endorsed his candidature,” the statement said, referring to Nana Konadu Rawlings, who had unsuccessfully sought to appear on the ballot for an upstart party.
“Nana Akufo-Addo apologizes unreservedly to former first lady Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings and the Ghanaian people for this piece of misinformation and regrets the entire incident.”
The statement said he had been incorrectly informed by one of his aides that Konadu Rawlings had endorsed him.
Konadu Rawlings is the wife of Jerry Rawlings, the former coup leader turned president and national icon who maintains significant influence in the country of some 24 million people.
He also founded the National Democratic Congress of President John Dramani Mahama — Akufo-Addo’s opponent in the election.
Jerry Rawlings has signaled his backing for Mahama, but his intentions have at times been unclear. Analysts have said he seems intent on restoring what some see as his waning influence.
The West African nation meanwhile made final preparations ahead of Today’s polls, with the country set to use biometric voting for the first time, requiring voters to provide electronic fingerprints for identification
Results are expected within 48 hours after the election. They are expected to be close, with the 68-year-old Akufo-Addo having lost the 2008 vote by less than one percentage point.
The 54-year-old Mahama, who had been vice president, only took office in July following the death of his predecessor John Atta Mills.
Both of Ghana’s main political parties have taken a turn at giving up power after a vote, establishing the country as a stable democracy.
It is also seen as an emerging nation due to its solid economic growth thanks to exports of gold and cocoa, in addition to the promise that came with the start of oil production in 2010.
The country’s newfound oil wealth has been a key issue in the campaign, with both the main candidates offering various ways to spend it.
Mahama has proposed to boost infrastructure, while Akufo-Addo has strongly pushed a plan to provide free secondary education for everyone — something the ruling party argues is unworkable in the short term.
Six minor candidates also appear on the presidential ballot and could together earn enough support to deprive either Mahama or Akufo-Addo of the majority needed for a first-round win.
If neither wins more than 50 percent, Ghanaians will vote in a run-off on Dec. 28.
Voters will also be electing a new Parliament, which has been expanded to 275 seats from 230. The NDC won a narrow edge in seats over the opposition NPP in the 2008 vote.