Ghana's ruling NDC to name Mahama as election candidate
Ghana's ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) party has agreed to name stand-in president John Dramani Mahama as its candidate in a presidential election scheduled for December, a top party official told Reuters on Thursday.
Mahama was sworn in hours after President John Atta Mills died on Tuesday, and took over the job of NDC party leader the next day. He had been Mills' vice president since January 2009.
The West African oil, cocoa and gold producer has been one of the best performing economies in Africa over the last few years, helped by high oil prices, and has been an oasis of stability in a region plagued by coups and civil war.
However, with exported oil and imported consumer goods paid for in dollars, the local Ghanaian currency has fallen some 17 percent this year and analysts had worried prolonged political uncertainty might delay efforts to address this.
"The (National Executive Committee - NEC) has adopted a motion to endorse President Mahama as the NDC flag bearer for the 2012 elections. There was no opposition to the motion," George Lawson, NDC deputy general secretary, said after a party meeting in Accra.
Lawson said a Sept. 1 party congress will officially endorse Mahama as the NDC's candidate to run against the opposition New Patriotic Party's Nana Akufo-Addo in what is expected to be a tight race.
"Today's resolution means President Mahama will be the sole candidate at the congress...The aim is to get the required 51-plus endorsements for him and that ends it," NDC executive committee member Richard Quashigah told Reuters.
Mills secured the right to run for re-election with a crushing victory over Nana Konadu, wife of the still-influential former president Jerry Rawlings, in a primary earlier this year.
The primary race exposed divisions that exist within the party, and some observers had believed Konadu or others might launch challenges for the candidacy in the wake of Mills' death.
Thursday's decision eliminates the possiblity of a potentially divisive internal battle to determine who should become the party's candidate just months before the poll.
"It's a very logical development. There's only a few months left before the election. The party is going to unite behind the candidate with the best chances," Samir Gadio, an emerging markets analyst with Standard Bank, told Reuters.
"You could have expected the faction supporting Rawlings to challenge. That was the risk. But we saw at the last convention that they were weak," he said.
Rawlings, who is a member of the NEC, was abroad this week and did not attend the meeting, though party officials said he had been invited.
Mahama, a historian and author just back from a U.S. tour to promote a personal memoir on Ghana's history, is widely expected to maintain current policies in his caretaker role.
Before Mills' death, most analysts had expected a year of election spending - a test of Ghana's reputation for improved economic management. The government last week sought parliament's permission for extra spending. (Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Abidjan; Editing by Louise Ireland)