A man casts his vote at a polling station during presidential elections in Accra December 7, 2012. Ghana extended voting in its presidential election into a second day, officials said on Friday, after a rash of technical problems prevented thousands of people in the West African state from casting their ballots on time. REUTERS/Stringer

Accra -

Ghana opened some polling stations for a second day on Saturday, after long delays forced an extension of a general election in the west African country seeking to further burnish its democratic credentials in a volatile region.

President John Dramani Mahama is vying for a first elected term against main opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo in a nation reaping the benefits of a booming economy fuelled in part by a new and expanding oil industry.

The results are expected to be close in a country that has been seeking to live up to its reputation as an example of stable democracy in turbulent west Africa. Voters are also electing a 275-seat parliament.

Voting went smoothly on Friday in many areas, but a new biometric system requiring electronic fingerprints from voters suffered a number of breakdowns in certain districts, resulting in long lines and much frustration.

Materials arriving late also caused some polling stations to open far behind schedule.

Election officials ordered those polling stations where the biometric system had broken down or where the necessary materials arrived especially late to extend voting into a second day.

It was not clear how many polling stations were affected in the country of some 24 million people, including around 14 million registered voters.

“We are talking about isolated instances,” electoral commission chief Kwado Afari-Gyan told AFP. “It is not a mass problem.”

Spokesmen for the two main political parties expressed support for the commission, however some voters' patience wore thin and there were yet more delays on Saturday.

One polling station visited by AFP had yet to open nearly an hour after the 0700 GMT starting time.

At another polling place in the capital Accra on Saturday morning, voting had begun, with more than 100 people waiting to cast ballots.

“Today we are here by 2 am,” said Francisca Aseidua, a 49-year-old mother of three who was among those waiting and who had also spent much of Friday at the polling station. “If I can't vote today, I won't leave this place.”

Counting was meanwhile underway in districts where voting was completed.

Results from the elections had been expected as early as Sunday, but it was unclear whether that timeframe would remain after the extension.

There are a total of eight presidential candidates, which could result in a second-round runoff vote on December 28.

Ghana has had five elections since military rule ended in 1992, but the stakes are seen as higher than ever this time, as commercial oil production that began in 2010 is set to expand.

Mahama, 54, of the National Democratic Congress, only took power in July, when his predecessor John Atta Mills died following an illness.

The 68-year-old Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party, the son of a former president, lost by less than one percentage point in 2008.

Elections since a return to civilian rule in 1992 have seen both parties voted out of office, establishing Ghana's democratic credentials in a region that has seen its share of rigged polls and coups.

Ghana is also a top exporter of cocoa and gold, with economic growth of 14 percent in 2011. Eight percent growth is expected for 2012 and 2013.

How to spend Ghana's oil money has been a key issue. Mahama has advocated a large investment in infrastructure, while Akufo-Addo has promoted his signature policy of free secondary education. - Sapa-AFP