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By Scott Stearns
03 January 2009
Tax law professor John Atta-Mills is Ghana's next president. The opposition candidate won a hard-fought, much-delayed election to succeed outgoing president John Kufuor.
|President-elect John Atta-Mills addresses party supporters shortly after being declared winner of the runoff presidential election in Accra, 03 Jan 2009|
With results in from Ghana's final electoral constituency, Atta-Mills beat ruling-party candidate Nana Akufo-Addo by fewer than 41,000 votes. Electoral Commission Chairman Kwado Afari-Gyan named Atta-Mills the winner. "On the basis of the official results given, it is my duty to declare Professor John Evans Atta-Mills president-elect of the Republic of Ghana," he said.
Atta-Mills supporters outside the Electoral Commission celebrated his win, shouting that this year they have brought change to Ghana and will bury the elephant, which is the symbol of the ruling National Patriotic Party.
In his third run for the presidency, Atta-Mills withstood two rounds of voting and a special election in a single constituency Friday to claim 50.23 percent of the vote.
Both the ruling party and the opposition National Democratic Congress accused the other of vote fraud, but Electoral Chairman Gyan said the commission did not find sufficient evidence to invalidate the overall result.
Ruling-party candidate Akufo-Addo conceded defeat and congratulated Atta-Mills. But he said party lawyers will go to court over accusations of opposition intimidation in the Volta district. "This is today a divided country, and these times call for leadership from all of us," he said.
Atta-Mills told his supporters that he hopes the two parties can work together to build a better country. "Let me say, that the elections are over. We now have one Ghana. There is no NDC Ghana. There is no NPP Ghana. There is no CPP Ghana. There is one Ghana," he said.
The 64-year-old president-elect congratulated Akufo-Addo for giving him a good fight and assured Ghanians that there will be no recriminations against those who did not support him. "I want to assure all Ghanaians that I will be president for all. There will be no discrimination," he said.
Atta-Mills not only captured the presidency but led his party to big gains in parliament, ending the ruling party's legislative majority by winning 114 of the 228 seats in Ghana's parliament.
Atta-Mills is a former national tax commissioner who served as vice president to Jerry Rawlings who came to power in a coup 27 years ago. Mr. Rawlings introduced some economic and political reforms before handing over to President Kufuor in 2001.
Atta-Mills is from Ghana's central region. He studied law at London's School of Oriental and African Studies and at Stanford Law School in California as a Fulbright scholar. He is an avid swimmer and played on Ghana's national field hockey team. He and wife Ernestina Naadu Mills have a 19-year-old son.