July 31, 2013 (Lead Story)
ALL is almost set for the Supreme Court to deliver its judgement in the petition challenging the legitimacy of President John Dramani Mahama following the filing of addresses by three of the parties in the petition.
However, the third respondent in the petition, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), had not filed its address as of 5:30 p.m. when staff of the Supreme Court Registry officially closed.
It was not clear why the party had not filed its address by the stipulated time given by the court, but it is likely that it will file before the close of work today.
While the petitioners, in their address, argue that the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) should have been declared winner of the December 7 and 8, 2012 presidential poll, the respondents hold a different view.
According to the Electoral Commission (EC) and President Mahama, the petitioners had not been able to establish the grounds for the annulment of votes and the subsequent declaration of Nana Akufo-Addo as the winner of the presidential poll.
The court will resume sitting today to iron out issues that may arise before directing the parties on what to do next.
As of 5 p.m. yesterday, the petitioners, President Mahama and the EC had sent emissaries to file their addresses on their behalf.
The petitioners’ address was filed on their behalf by two of their lawyers, Mr Alex Quaynor and Mr Kwaku Asirifi, while Mr Victor K. Adawudu and Mr Joseph Asamoah filed on behalf of the President and the EC, respectively.
NPP’s statement on address
A statement issued by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Accra yesterday said the petitioners’ address cited more than 60 authorities and spelt out the case for the petitioners.
According to the statement, the case of the petitioners was mainly on the facts and figures on the pink sheets (statement of poll and declaration of results form), the official document on which the EC relied to declare the results of the presidential poll.
It said the petitioners had also grounded their case on clear breaches of the Constitution and other electoral laws and practices in Ghana.
“The address reiterates the six main categories of irregularities, malpractices, violations and omissions in various combinations which affected the results of the election in 11,842 polling stations,” it pointed out.
To prosecute their case, the petitioners are relying on 10,119 pink sheets “which spoke to the nature of the violations, malpractices and irregularities grounding the petition”.
The statement said the true results of the 2012 presidential election after they had been cured of all the infractions through the necessary annulments should see Nana Akufo-Addo earning 56.85 per cent, with President Mahama obtaining 41.79 per cent of the valid votes cast.
The petitioners are, therefore, asking the court to declare that Mr Mahama was not validly elected, while it should invoke its constitutional and statutory powers to declare Nana Akufo-Addo as the validly elected President of the Republic.
The statement also noted that the “respondents failed or refused to file any pink sheet, except the 17 pink sheets the President was compelled to tender in evidence”, adding that “beyond reliance on inconsequential reports of election observers, the respondents, in effect, tendered no evidence of substance of their own”.
According to the statement, the final decision of the Supreme Court would have fundamental and far-reaching consequences for the future of democracy in Ghana, pointing out that the petitioners had been able to prove each and every infraction of over-voting, persons voting without undergoing biometric verification, some presiding officers not signing pink sheets and some pink sheets having duplicate serial numbers.
“The petitioners have shown, by the sheer depth and weight of the evidence adduced at trial and the force of legal arguments advanced, that there were, indeed, substantial constitutional and statutory violations, malpractices and irregularities in the 2012 presidential election and these violations, malpractices and irregularities had a material effect on the results of the election as declared by the 2nd respondent,” it said.
President holds a different view
The address filed on behalf of the President by his lawyer, Mr Tony Lithur, states: “There are many reasons why adherence to the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies makes absolute sense in the particular context of this case.
“It is patently clear from the history of this case that the petitioners failed to make a case for the occurrence of the alleged irregularities at the various polling stations nationwide and to provide the Electoral Commission the opportunity to deal with these allegations administratively and on the spot because they simply lacked the evidence to back their claims.”
According to the President’s lawyer, the strategy the petitioners adopted was simply to trigger the jurisdiction of “this court by filing a petition and then go back to look for the evidence”.
He further submitted that the refusal or neglect of the petitioners to file any complaints relating to the alleged irregularities at the various polling stations and collation centres should have ordinarily denied them the opportunity to invoke the jurisdiction of the court under Article 64 of the 1992 Constitution.
“The petitioners failed to prove their allegations and for that reason the petition must be dismissed by the court,” he held.
In the summary of their address, the lawyers for the EC said the petitioners had failed to establish that the irregularities that occurred in the 2012 presidential election affected the results and urged the court to find that there was no justification for the annulment of any votes.
It said the petitioners hung their entire case on administrative and clerical errors on the face of the pink sheets.
“Given the fact that the EC hires over one hundred thousand temporary officials who are trained for only a short time to conduct the presidential and parliamentary elections in a day or two, administrative and clerical errors are avoidable.
“This is not to say that the EC will not do everything in its power to ensure that such administrative errors are minimised. If elections were allowed to be annulled on the basis of such errors, which do not injure any candidate in particular, there would be loss of public confidence in the electoral system and the tendency to challenge practically the results of every election will be heightened,” it pointed out.
They said the right to vote was a fundamental right given by the Constitution to Ghanaian citizens who were 18 years or older, adding that in the desire to exercise their civic responsibility in relation to that right, Ghanaians spent considerable periods of time to register as voters during the registration period and stood in long queues to vote on election day for the purpose of electing their leaders in accordance with the country’s democracy.
“At no time did the petitioners allege that a person voted who was not entitled to vote. Neither have the petitioners shown that any candidate or a voter engaged in wrongdoing in connection with the election. At no polling station did the number of persons who voted exceed the number of persons eligible to vote there,” they added.