THE IMPENDING PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION PETITION
Member of Parliament for South Dayi-Rockson Nelson Darfeamekpor has revealed that the NDC is set to file a petition at the Supreme Court to challenge the declaration of President Akuffo Addo as the winner of the December 7 presidential election. This revelation is good news for Ghana, which is touted as a beacon of democracy in Africa. The filing of the election petition is a signal to the global community that the NDC believes in due process and will also get the assurance that Ghanaians are firmly committed to keeping the much-cherished peace and stability.
Indeed Ghana’s peace and stability portray the country as an attractive destination for foreign investment and tourism. In the impending election petition, NDC will be asking the supreme court to declare that president Akuffo-Addo has not been vividly elected, in addition to other serious reliefs such as praying the court to declare the NDC flagbearer, John Mahama, as the duly elected candidate, a rerun of the presidential election among others. It is important to look at some major aspects of the law on election petition, in reference to timelines for commencement and completion of such a petition.
Although Article 64 of the 1992 constitution gives every citizen of Ghana the right to file such a petition within 21 days of the declaration of a winner of the election through a written instrument by the electoral commission, that right has been narrowed down extensively to only the presidential candidates through CI 99. The CI states that a presidential candidate who desires to challenge the declaration of any co-candidate as winner of the election by the EC, has 21 days to do so or forever hold his peace.
On the matter of the completion of the hearing, happily, in2016, a new law was enacted which states that a presidential election petition hearing must be completed within 42days of the commencement of the case. That is to say, the case must come to an end by 8th February 2021, if president Akuffo-Addo and the EC are served on the same day the petition is filed, that is 30th December 2020. Otherwise, a few more days or weeks should be added to the 42 days to cater for eventualities in the attempt to serve the president and the EC. This new law is a great relief because the last election petition in 2012, traveled 8 months with its attendant’s high political tension and uncertainty in the business environment.
It is no secret that quite a number of businesses held back on investment, as the country waits with rated breath for the verdict. Since there has been a precedent of a Presidential election petition, being the one filed by now president Akuffo Addo and Vice President-Bawumia in 2012 that will surely provide guidance going into the impending petition. However, there is a caveat that the Supreme Court reserves the right to change its mind from the judgement on the 2012 petition. By law as stated by the majority of the Supreme Court in the 2012 presidential petition, the reliefs to be sought must be based on evidence that the violations of the electoral laws in the 2020 elections, were widespread to the extent that if the votes in those areas of violations were discounted either none of the candidates got at least 50% of the votes cast in order to be declared winner consequently there must be a rerun or that John Mahama won the Election.
In addition, the court unanimously held that some administrative issues cannot nullify the votes of the people. Examples include the pink sheets not being serially numbered, lack of polling station codes or repetitive codes and unknown polling stations that is polling stations created late but brought to the notice of the political parties. The majority of the court held that the absence of the presiding officer’s signature does not also nullify the votes. This time round, by the same CI 99, the respective political parties of the candidates, cannot be made parties to the case. So neither NDC nor NPP can be parties. Of course the parties reserve the right to challenge the constitutionality of the law with regard to their exclusion as interested parties.
The brief step-by-step requirements of (CI 99) are as follows. Once the President and the EC are served, they must each present their response within 10 days of the service. On the 15th day, the judges will meet the parties, to prepare for the plenary trail, which is the one that usually involves witnesses testifying in the witness box. The trial will be conducted and concluded within 7 days making it 21 days thus far. The judges have the remaining 21 days to come out with their verdict. In the event of any unforeseen challenges within the 7-day trail, the judges are at liberty to give part of their 21 days to the parties to make the trail extend beyond 7 days.
To foster transparency as was done in the last petition in 2012, the law gives the court power to allow for a live broadcast of the proceedings. It is highly expected that the court will allow such a broadcast, which will help to educate Ghanaians on the processes and outcomes of the trail. This will prepare the citizens to accept the verdict. Indeed, legal terms such as “further and better particulars” became common knowledge. So did the nation get some comic relief in the phrase “you and l were not there”, as often repeated by Dr. Bawumia? Certain comments which were regarded by the judges as constituting the offence of contempt of court were dealt with. Several persons were hauled before the panel and sanctioned.
In fact, some persons, including Kenneth Kuranchie and Stephen Atubiga. For instance, Mr. Atubiga in an attempt to purge himself of contempt infamously referred to himself as “a foolish man from Binduri”. Ghanaians, therefore, expect that the lessons learnt from the 2012 petition will go a long way to discourage the parties and their supporters from making prejudicial and or contemptuous statements during the hearing of the case.
BY THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS (NDC)