Electoral commission officials count the ballots after polls closed in Accra, Ghana, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. Voters lined up early in Ghana to cast their ballots in presidential and legislative elections likely to test the West African nation's credentials as one of the most politically stable countries on the continent. (AP Photo/Ofoe Amegavie)
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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Voters in Ghana cast their ballots Monday for presidential and legislative elections likely to test the West African nation’s credentials as one of the continent's most politically stable countries.

There are 12 presidential candidates, including three women, with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, 76, of the New Patriotic Party and former president John Dramani Mahama, 62, of the National Democratic Congress forecast as the frontrunners.

The two have faced off twice before. Mahama won the 2012 elections, but lost in 2016 to Akufo-Addo. If either of the two heavyweights win, they’ll serve a second and final term under current constitutional limits. A candidate must win more than 50% of the vote to avoid a second round, which would take place in about 21 days.

More than 17 million were registered to vote at more than 38,000 polling stations around the country, with polling stations divided up so that lines are shorter amid the coronavirus pandemic. Voters are also casting ballots for 275 seats for which 918 parliamentary candidates are vying.

Polls closed after the vote Monday, with some remaining open a bit longer to accommodate lines. Results are expected within the next three days.

The Coalition of Election Observers has said in its preliminary situational report that the arrangements put in place by the electoral commission "for the setup and opening of polls were adequate for most polling stations.”

The 4,000 deployed poll workers noted only some incidents, including non-compliance with COVID-19 protocols, harassment of some voters and poll officials and some issues with biometric verification devices, it said.

Ghana has held peaceful, free, fair, and transparent elections for nearly two decades — this will be the eighth consecutive election since the country's return to multi-party democracy in 1992. Many eyes are on this election as a test of democracy after elections in regional neighbors Guinea and Ivory Coast saw leaders hold onto power for third terms after constitutional changes that have been strongly contested by opposition groups.

President Akufo-Addo voted in his constituency at Kyebi in the Eastern Region.

He said that reports of the electoral process pointed to a fluid and peaceful process, and he was hopeful that the contest would progress that way, according to Ghana News Agency.

He encouraged all eligible Ghanaians to exercise their rights in a peaceful manner to consolidate the democratic gains the country had made since 1992.

Former president John Mahama voted in his Bole constituency and described the process as simple and very smooth, though he said it was too early to make a clear assessment given some reports of difficulties in other parts of the country.

Many hope Ghana's election will remain peaceful, although there have been reports of a couple of armed attacks in the north and central region. More than 62,000 security personnel have been dispatched to maintain law and order at polling stations, said Inspector General of Police, James Oppong-Boanuh.

In a state broadcast Sunday, President Akufo-Addo said, it was his responsibility to guarantee the peace of the nation and said it is crucial that today’s voting be conducted in an atmosphere of peace and security, without intimidation and violence.

“The Ghanaian people are entitled to go about the exercise of their civic duties in peace and in freedom,” he said, adding that the security services have assured him that they have made adequate preparations.

“They have assured me of their determination to carry out their duties without fear or favor. Improper behavior by any citizen, no matter their political color, will not be tolerated,” he said.

Both Akufo-Addo and former president Mahama have campaigned on anti-corruption platforms, while trading accusations against each other.

First-time voter, 18-year Rebecca Sefakor Aryee told The Associated Press she was voting but that she didn't feel her vote would count for much.

“I was forced by my uncle to come ... there is so much corruption among the politicians and voting will not bring any change," she said.

Real estate developer, Kwabena Nyarko said “there is nothing different from this election with the others," with the various parties having swapped roles in the ruling position over the past two elections.

In his Sunday address, Akufo-Addo added: “The entire world is looking up to us to maintain our status as a beacon of democracy, peace, and stability. In this 4th Republic, we have had the longest, uninterrupted period of stable, constitutional governance in our history, banishing the specter of instability that disfigured the early years of our nation’s existence, and the benefits are showing.”

Former president Mahama at a rally over the weekend told the crowd, “this election is a rescue mission from a president who has lost every idea to help build the country and have been accused of corrupt practices all over.”

Electoral commission chair Jean Mensa has promised a credible, fair, orderly and peaceful election.