October 18, 2014 / 10:59 PM / 3 years ago

Ghana's main opposition party elects Akufo-Addo as 2016 candidate

New Patriotic Party (NPP) leader Nana Akufo-Addo speaks during a meeting to contest the presidential election results, at Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra December 11, 2012.Luc Gnago

ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana's main opposition New Patriotic Party voted overwhelmingly on Saturday to retain Nana Akufo-Addo as its leader for the 2016 election, setting up a rematch of the last poll when he lost narrowly to President John Mahama.

The election is also expected to be close given that the ruling National Democratic Congress government has faced economic headwinds including rising inflation, a stubborn budget deficit and a currency that has fallen sharply this year.

"We must rid our country through the peace of the ballot box of the incompetent NDC government of John Mahama and relieve the Ghanaian people of the unjustifiable hardships and difficulties they are encountering," Akufo-Addo told a party rally in Accra.

"We are then to form a government for Ghana where we will reverse the decline of our nation," he said.

Ghana is considered a model of African democracy because of its peaceful elections, regular changes of power and respect for the rule of law. The West African state has also seen years of strong economic growth from its exports of gold, cocoa and oil.

The government said this week it is close to a deal with the International Monetary Fund for a financial assistance program to start in January that would help stabilize the economy and facilitate wider economic transformation. [ID:L6N0SB695]

Some analysts say a Fund program could help rebalance the economy in 2015 and enable the government to reassure voters come election time.

Akufo-Addo, 70, secured on Saturday more than 96 percent of 126,000 votes cast, witnesses said.

Akufo-Addo ran for president in 2008 but lost to the NDC's John Atta Mills. He died unexpectedly in July 2012 and was succeeded by his vice president Mahama, who is likely to stand at the next election for a second and final term.

Akufo-Addo lost the December 2012 poll and the party launched a protracted Supreme Court challenge, which it lost. It then embarked on an internal contest to select a leader.

Editing by James Dalgleish

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