23 January 2013

Ghana: NDC Wins Round 1

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has cleared the first hurdle to a challenge against the declaration of its candidate as winner in the 2012 December Presidential election.

The Supreme Court by a 6-3 majority decision ruled that NDC as a political party has the right to join the petition filed by at the court by Nana Akuffo-Addo and two others.

In its diverse opinions, the court, presided over by Justice William Atuguba, supported the argument espoused by the NDC, led by its lead counsel, Mr. Tsastu Tsikata, in an application it filed to join the election petition.

According to the court, the NDC is an interested party to the petition, since any decision arriving from the case directly affects it and, therefore, accepting it to join the case would be in the interest of justice and also prevent multiplicity of proceedings.

Other members of the panel include Justices Julius Ansah, Sophia Adinyira, Rose Owusu, Jones Dotse, Anin-Yeboah, Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Sule Gbadegbe and Vida Akoto-Bamfo.

The court further ordered that the NDC, as third respondents to the petition before the court should be served with the amended petition and other documents filed to enable it respond to the issues raised within seven days of receiving the affidavits.

The ruling, that brought smiles on the faces of executives and representatives of the NDC accredited to the court, appeared to have dished a hefty blow on the face of Nana Akufo-Addo and his team of lawyers led by Mr. Philip Addison, as well as bunch of sympathizers, who were present in the court room.

The petition mentioned Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, NPP running-mate in the 2012 election and Jake Okanta Obetsebi-Lamptey, NPP National Chairman and cited President John Dramani Mahama and the EC as respondents.

In granting the application for joinder, submitted by the NDC, Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo, who read the lead opinion, noted that the case before the court invokes the original supervisory jurisdiction of the court, which made it necessary to allow all parties into the case to ensure that all matters in controversy were dealt with.

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It was her considered view that the roles of political parties under the Political Party Law and the Constitution are significant in the democratization of the country and as such, the petitioners as well as the first respondent in the case, President John Dramani Mahama, were all sponsored to run in the 2012 December election by their respective political parties.

She further noted that due to its role, a declaration invalidating the President would affect the political party that sponsored the President-elect, as political parties would have to go back to conduct primaries and select a candidate to stand on its ticket in a contest of an election.

To her, preventing a political party from joining a case that affects it would be a disservice, since the applicant, whose rights are enshrined in the Constitution and who would be directly affected by the decision arrived on the issue before the court, could not be denied from joining to case in determining the issue in the interest of justice.

In his consent, Justice William Atuguba noted that the NDC was right in bringing its application for joinder under Article 14 of Constitutional Instrument (C.I.) 16, which deals with political parties as interested party to a case.

It is in this regard that he espoused the notion that political parties under the law have a role in elections, as it sponsors candidates to contest for public offices as the office of President is no exception.

According to him, when a political party withdraws its nomination of a candidate standing on its ticket in an election, it would invalidate the position acquired by that person, adding that the stake of political parties are further elevated in issues of nominations in forming a government.

In his view, political parties have the right to influence persons, including the President, in shaping the political governance of the country, noting "Petitioners have unsurprisingly described themselves in their political party positions".

Justice Atuguba emphasized the need for a restrictive approach to a joinder to be avoided, as it is "the duty of the court to keep the doors of justice wide open, instead of closing it".

To him, one need not be a citizen of Ghana to be joined to a petition, adding that the NDC and an applicant in the case, is better equipped than the 1st respondent (John Mahama) to help the court to deal with the case.

In their consent to granting the application for joinder, Justices Sophia Adinyira, Rose Owusu, Jones Dotse and Sule Gbadegbe noted that it would allow the entire issue to be dealt with in the interest of Justice, as the applicant is a necessary party in the determination of the case.

Furthermore, they ruled that injustices would be done to the applicant it they were not joined to the case, which so affects them.

Putting forward the lead dissenting view against the application for joinder, Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie noted that the applicants are unnecessary party to the case and should, therefore, not be joined to the petition.

According to him, no claims had been made against the applicant in respect of the case filed before the court, noting that applicants argument before the court only indicated that they are "just interested party and not a necessary party," in the case.

To him, the Political Party laws and the Constitution does not make the applicant a necessary party in the case, since the case brought before the court had a restrictive nature.

In their support to opposing the application for joinder, Justices Annin-Yeboah and Julius Ansah noted that the applicant by the law is an intervener and, therefore, not qualified to be joined to the case.

They noted that joinders are accepted depending on the issues before the court and that applicant have failed to convince that it is a necessary party to the case, as it could not meet all the requirements of being joined to the case.

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