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Ghana votes in tight presidential election

More than 17 million people are eligible to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections in Ghana.   -  
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Voting has started in Ghana's tense presidential and parliamentary elections, in which more than 17 million people are eligible to vote.

The race is expected to be a close fight between incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo, 76, of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and longtime opponent John Mahama, 62, of the National Democratic Congress party (NDC).

It is their third-time running against each other.

They signed a symbolic peace pact on Friday but Ghana has long been a beacon of stability in West Africa and has ensured peaceful transfers of power on seven occasions since it returned to democracy nearly 30 years ago.

There are a total of 12 candidates running, including three women.

In view of the happenings on the continent, and, indeed in West Africa, the entire world is looking up to us to maintain our status as a beacon of democracy, peace and stability," Akufo-Addo said in a televised address on Sunday evening.

Voters will cast their ballots for a new president and members of parliament for 275 constituencies between 7:00 am and 5:00 pm at 38,000 polling stations across the nation.

Key issues include unemployment, infrastructure, education and health.

The incumbent has been given high marks for his handling of the pandemic and his record on free education and improving access to electricity.

But he has disappointed some in his performance on tackling graft -- the key issue on which he was elected four years ago.

Despite this, corruption is a difficult issue for Mahama to latch onto, as he himself left office under a cloud of graft allegations.

Mahama has also been criticised for poor economic decisions and racking up unsustainable debts.

Ghana has made giant strides over the past two decades, becoming the world's second-largest cocoa-producing country, but many still live in extreme poverty with scarce access to clean water or electricity.

Hit hard by the pandemic, growth in the nation of 30 million people is expected to fall this year to its lowest in three decades, to 0.9 percent according to the International Monetary Fund, a steep decline from 6.5 percent growth in 2019.

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