Ghana: Uncertainty Fills the Air As Ghana's Supreme Court Decides On Landmark Electoral Dispute

The 2012 general elections like all the preceding general elections in the 4th Republic was largely successful and relatively peaceful according to local and international observers. The Head of the AU/ECOWAS electoral observers group General Olusegun Obasanjo said "this election is another block on the edifice of this country".

With eight (8) candidates on the ballot, unsurprisingly, the real contest was between John Mahama and Nana Akuffo-Addo of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) respectively. The Electoral Commission (EC) on December 9, 2012 declared 10,995,262 valid votes were cast and gave the incumbent, President John Dramani Mahama a 50.70% victory with 5,574,761 votes whiles his main challenger Nana Akufo-Addo, received 5,248,898 votes, representing 47.79% and the rest of the votes shared among the six other candidates.

On December 28, 2012, three persons from the opposition NPP, led by the presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwah Akuffo-Addo, his running mate, Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia and National Chairman of the party in question, Jake Obetsebi Lamptey took their petition to the Supreme Court, seeking to annul 4,381,145 votes from 11,138 out of 26,002 polling stations across the country.

They claimed those votes were affected by six main categories of constitutional and statutory violations, malpractices, omissions and irregularities in various combinations. Mr. John Dramani Mahama, the president-elect and leader of the NDC, the NDC party, and the Electoral Commission were the respondents in the case.

Issues at Stake:

- Whether or not there were statutory violations, omissions, irregularities and malpractices in the conduct of the elections held on December 7 and 8, 2012 elections

- Whether or not the said violations, omissions, irregularities and malpractices (if any) affected the outcome of the results

Ghana's Supreme Court therefore is expected to give a ruling on these 2 reliefs.

Along the line of the 8 months of the court sitting, a suit filed at the court by the General Secretary of the People's National Convention (PNC), Mr Bernard Mornah, seeking "a declaration that on a true and proper interpretation of articles 133, 157, 93(2) and 11 of the 1992 Constitution, Rule 71B and a part of Rule 69C (5) of the Supreme Court (Amendment) Rules, 2012 (CI 74) are unconstitutional and must be declared null and void and of no effect" The Supreme Court ruled that its decision in respect of petitions filed to challenge the election of a President could be reviewed if any of the parties was dissatisfied.

The Verdict

Many Ghanaians were relieved when all the parties concluded their legal arguments over the election petition with the president of the panel announcing that they will give their judgment on Thursday 29 August. The final verdict would bring to a close the protracted legal battle over the December 2012 election that has lasted about eight months.

Lawyer Michael Afrifa of the Legal 2 Law Firm explained to the African Elections Project that the verdict could go the following ways:

- Declare Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the 2012 Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party winner of the elections on the grounds of the reliefs they sought in court.

- Maintain the status quo by declaring incumbent President John Dramani Mahama as the validly elected president.

- Another expectation could be a directive for a re-run of the whole Presidential elections or order a rerun of the Presidential elections in selected polling stations.

Lawyer Afrifa is of the view that even though both the petitioners and respondents can seek review of the final verdict, "it will be a waste of time to contest a unanimous decision by the judges since the two additional judges who will join the panel during the review will not make that much impact with their votes."

He further raised a couple of constitutional matters in the instance of Nana Akufo-Addo being declared president, "will he serve the remaining time of this current administration which will come to an end in January 6, 2016 together with the dissolution of the current parliament or will he start a new term as stated in Article 66 (1) of the Constitution that, "A person elected as President shall hold office for a term of four years beginning from the date on which he is sworn in as President."

Another dilemma he pointed out is that "in the event of President Mahama winning a rerun of the elections as directed by the court will he start a new term of presidency if he wins that particular election? What implications will all these scenarios have on the way Ghana runs its elections in future?"

Kwame Yeboah a political analyst however thinks whatever the outcome of this election petition, "the Supreme Court will direct for an overhaul of the country's electoral laws with massive reforms on the preparations towards elections, funding of elections and building the capacity of the management and staff of the electoral commission to conduct better elections in the future."

Security

The anxiety in the country has reached a high level with many citizens fearing the worse to happen. The security apparatus has been beefed and police have asked the Public not to be intimidated by the presence of the Security Personnel on the streets and in their neighbourhoods because they are not out to harass them, but rather protect lives and property. The police have also assured citizens that nothing untoward will happen and they should go about their normal duties.

Some principal roads in the capital have been shut down ahead of the verdict and many citizens, religious bodies and civil society organisations have appealed to the leadership of both the NDC and NPP and their supporters accept the verdict of the Court for the peace of the nation.

The police has also deployed personnel to flash points around the country and media houses to avert any untoward incidents after the pronouncement of the verdict by the supreme court.

"We would ensure that personnel also control traffic and perform normal policing duties since some criminals might take advantage of the situation to commit crime or engage in other unlawful activities." The director of police public affairs, DSP Cephas Arthur in an interview with AEP

The fate of Ghana's democracy seems to be in the hands of the Supreme Court who have the constitutional jurisdiction to discharge such a colossal task without fear or favor. We hope that they will be bold and be guided by the greater national goal to render a sound verdict which will entrench the current peace prevailing in the country.

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