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Voters head to the polls in close Ghana election (UPDATES)

Ghana's elections are extended one day due to technical glitches at many polling places.

Ghana woman votes in electionsEnlarge
An elderly woman casts her ballot at the Bole polling station, in the Bole Bamboi constituency of northern Ghana, on December 7, 2012. Ghana voted in a high-stakes presidential election today which is expected to be close, with the emerging country seeking to live up to its promise as a beacon of democracy in turbulent West Africa. (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

Ghana's presidential and parliamentary elections have been extended one day in regions where problems at polling stations caused major delays, BBC News reported. Delays were due to officials arriving late, missing polling materials and technical glitches with a new registration system.

New electronic fingerprint readers in many locations malfunctioned, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters:

A spokesman for the main opposition party said the glitches had affected hundreds of thousands of people, though the electoral commission declined to give an estimate.

"Voting will continue tomorrow (Saturday) so that these people will have the opportunity to cast their ballots," electoral commission spokesman Christian Owusu-Parry told local radio on Friday evening, according to BBC News.

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The streets of Ghana were mainly empty on Friday as residents waited in lines to vote for the African nation's next president.

Incumbent president John Dramani Mahama, the former vice president who took the reigns after his predecessor John Atta Mills died in July, is facing a tough challenge from seven other candidates. 

The other front runner in the race is opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo, the son of a former president.

Analysts told CNN they predict a tight race between Mahama and Akufo-Addo, similar to the race four years ago when Akufo-Addo lost to Mills by a razor-thin margin of less than 1 percent.

"I am voting for peace, unity and development," Michael Akpabli, 61, told Reuters at a polling place in the sprawling seaside capital Accra.

"I am voting for someone who will be able to translate our dreams into reality," he said.

Journalist Sammy Darko, in Accra, told the BBC that streets were empty as people concentrated on voting.

Some people began waiting in line overnight in order to be among the first to cast their ballot, he said. 

"People are enthusiastic," oil company employee Delalorm Sesi Semabia, 25, told CNN. "This particular election is significant because candidates had debates on air and people heard their thoughts on issues. It made a huge difference, it created more passion."

Friday marks the sixth consecutive presidential and parliamentary elections in the West African nation since it returned to democratic rule in 1992, reports al Jazeera.

Ghana's election is being held up as a model of peace and democracy in a region rife with conflicts, civil wars and violence.

"These elections are important not just to Ghana, but for the growing number of states and actors seeking to benefit from increasing confidence in Africa," Alex Vines, Africa Research Director at Chatham House, told Reuters.  

Whichever candidate wins will be tasked with overseeing the oil-fueled spending boom that is about to hit Ghana. The World Bank projects growth of 8 percent in 2012 and 2013, after 14 percent growth in 2011. 

Both candidates have said they will use the country's newfound wealth to improve the education system, reports CNN. 

The results of the election are expected to be announced two days after the polls close, Reuters reported. A run-off will be held December 28 if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of Friday's vote.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/ghana/121207/voters-head-the-polls-close-ghana-election