Ghana’s Mills clinches ruling party ticket

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Ghanaian President John Atta Mills won a landslide victory on Saturday in the race to become the ruling party’s candidate in next year’s election and said he would address concerns raised by rivals.

Mills won 96.9 percent of the votes by National Democratic Congress delegates to defeat former first lady Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings, who mounted an unprecedented challenge to Mills for the head of the left-leaning party’s ticket.
“I congratulated her for putting up a good fight and enabling me to come to terms with issues we may have taken for granted,” Mills said after the results were announced, adding that concerns raised by party members would be addressed. Agyemang-Rawlings is the wife of longtime former ruler Jerry Rawlings.

The final results showed Mills got 2,771 votes out of 2,861 valid votes from the 3,000 delegates. He will be seeking a second four-year term against 2008 rival and main opposition candidate Nana Akufo Addo.

The challenge from the former first lady had split the party, with tensions running so high between rivals within the NDC camp that 1,500 police were deployed to the central town of Sunyani, about 400 km (240 miles) north of the capital, Accra, where the delegates were voting.

Mills’ critics, including the former first lady and her husband had accused the incumbent president of being too slow in dealing with corrupt government officials.

Ghana’s economy is set to record double-digit growth this year, thanks partly to its new oil wealth, but Agyemang-Rawlings and her husband, whose rule spanned two decades after a 1979 coup, say Mills is not doing enough to fight widespread poverty.

Mills rejected the suggestions he was soft on corruption and not doing enough to fight poverty in remarks to the delegates before the vote, asking for more time to complete the job he had started.
“Today’s victory is not for any particular person, rather, it is a process which is going to energise the party to face our opponents in 2012,” Mills said.
“After today, there should be no insults, no name-calling, no bickering — let’s remember that we have a duty to perform,” he said.

Analysts and delegates had said Mills’ reputation for level-headedness and incorruptibility made him the favourite, and noted the former president may not have been an asset to his wife’s campaign.

Jantru Mohamed, a delegate from the eastern town of Nkawkaw, said the former first lady was a great woman but that she could not compare with Mills.
“He’s a perfect gentleman, dynamic and most importantly incorruptible. I see a better Ghana under him,” Mohamed said.