Ghana's former first lady to run for president

ACCRA Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:10am EDT

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (R), former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings (C) and his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, visit a homeless shelter in the low-income neighborhood of Gramoven in Caracas December 2, 2010. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (R), former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings (C) and his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, visit a homeless shelter in the low-income neighborhood of Gramoven in Caracas December 2, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Miraflores Palace/Handout

ACCRA (Reuters) - Former Ghanaian first lady Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings announced on Saturday she has split from the ruling party that her husband founded to run for president under a new banner.

The move, backed by her husband former president Jerry Rawlings, threatens to split support for incumbent John Mahama, who is seeking re-election against his main opposition rival Nana Akufo-Addo on December 2.

"I stand before you today because I chose to become bolder and braver, and together we are going forward," Agyeman-Rawlings said in a speech broadcast on the radio.

She had tried to win the ruling NDC party's nomination last year, but lost to then-President John Atta Mills, who died in July and was replaced by Mahama.

Ghana, a cocoa, oil and gold producer, is one of West Africa's most stable countries, with more than 20 years of political transitions through elections following a flurry of coups.

Jerry Rawlings, who still enjoys broad popularity, said his wife left the ruling NDC because of bad governance.

"The NDC leadership had lost its moral high ground, (and was) involved in things that it should not have gotten into, corruption at the leadership level, etc," he said.

Agyemang-Rawlings, 63, is a women's rights advocate and is believed by many to have played an influential role during her husband's rule.

A leading member of the NDC said the move, which came days after Rawlings announced he would stand by the ruling party, would have "no consequence" on Mahama's campaign or the simultaneous legislative polls.

"I am urging our members to remain steadfast and not be rattled by this development," Richard Quashigah said.

Political observer and pollster, Ben Ephson, said he did not expect Agyeman-Rawlings to draw enough support to threaten Mahama's bid for re-election.

"...We don't think the party will make any significant impact on the fortunes of the NDC this December," he said.