The much-talked-about landmark election petition scheduled for today will most likely witness further delays following fresh applications filed by the Electoral Commission (EC), the 2 nd respondent in the case.
As Ghana’s case lingers on, Kenya disposed of its election petition within two weeks after hearing began.
Raila Odinga, the former prime minister, has since accepted the decision of the Supreme Court, paving the way for Uhuru Kenyatta to be sworn in as president by next week.
Ghana’s Supreme Court was due to set out the memorandum of issues for the main trial to commence when the EC, on the eve of the Easter holidays, filed two motions on notice for an order for ‘Further and better particulars of the 2 nd Amended Petition’ and another order granting leave to amend its amended answer filed on February 28.
According to the EC whose affidavit in support was deposed to by Amadu Sulley, the commission’s Deputy Chairman, Finance and Administration, on March 28, 2013, it is relying on Rule 69A (4) of C.I. 74.
As it is, the nine-member panel presided over by Justice William Atuguba will have to deal with the EC’s request before the Supreme Court would set out the issues for trial.
The EC claimed that after being served with further and better particulars, it conducted an examination and analysis which showed that out of the 2,009 Pink Sheets that the petitioners claimed were unsigned, 1,009 were in fact signed by the Presiding Officer at the polling station or, at the instance of the Returning Officer, at the Collation Centre.
It further said 905 were unsigned, representing 3.5 percent of the total number of Pink Sheets nationwide; and 1,989 Pink Sheets representing 99 percent of the number claimed to be unsigned, were signed by the polling or counting agents of the candidates.
‘Thus the 2 nd respondent maintains that the request by the petitioners that votes cast at the said polling stations are invalid and should be deducted is without merit and should be refused.
‘It should be noted that when several pages of papers impregnated with a carbon are used in order to have several copies of each page, it could happen that if the person signing or writing thereon does not press hard enough on the paper, the signature or writing could appear faint or illegible on some of the pages,’ the EC alleged in its latest amended answers.
The commission said that the particulars set out in Ground 2 of the 2 nd amended petition are a mere repetition of those set out in Ground 1 of the 2 nd amended petition and that the particulars provided by the petitioners did not cover the 11,916 polling stations mentioned in the 2 nd amended petition.
The EC wants the court to compel the petitioners to give further and better particulars of the 28 polling stations where the petitioners are alleging that voting took place but which is not part of the 26,002 assigned polling stations.
The EC further denied the allegation that the procedure established by it required each polling station to have a unique serial number and urged the court to reject the petitioner’s contention that votes recorded in any two polling stations on the Pink Sheets with the same serial numbers should be invalidated.
According to the EC, after analyzing Pink Sheets of 11,916 stations as claimed by petitioners, it realized that no voter was allowed to vote without biometric verification at any polling station, saying, ‘The Pink Sheets used for the 2012 Election were designed and printed before the decision was taken, at the instance of the NPP, that at each polling station every person should be biometrically verified before being allowed to vote.
‘In the view of the late decision regarding verification, all Presiding Officers, during the training exercise were instructed to leave Question C3 blank as verification would be carried out for each voter at the polling station.
‘Given that 26,002 polling agents had to be recruited by the 2 nd respondent, some of who were carrying out such duties for the first time and that the biometric register was being used in Ghana for the first time, it did happen, in a number of cases, that Question 3 was mistakenly filled. However, this did not affect the number of votes validly cast and counted in public.’
Order For Parties To Meet
Following the expiration of the seven-day order issued by the court to the parties to sort out the memorandum of issues that would be set for the main trial and the parties failing to agree on almost all the major issues, the petitioners’ lawyers wrote to the court’s registry as directed, to ask the court to set a date as early as possible.
The court then fixed today April 2, 2013, as the date on which it will meet the parties and set out the issues for them for the main petition to proceed, but the EC’s surprise motion means that the court would have to halt the proceedings and deal with the request first.
Further & Better Particulars
According to the EC, the court in its rulings of February 5 and 7, 2013, ordered the petitioners to provide ‘further and better particulars’ of the alleged 28 polling stations referred to in Ground 2 of the 2 nd amended petition, but the petitioners have not provided these.
It said in paragraph 18 of the amended answer to the petition that it responded to Ground 2 of the said amended petition but the petitioners did not ‘specifically address the allegation regarding instances of two polling stations recording votes on Statement of Poll and Declaration of Results Forms (Pink Sheets) bearing the same serial number and it is the 2 nd respondent’s desire to address same by the insertion of a new paragraph 18(a) contained in the attached proposed 2 nd amended answer to the 2 nd amended petition.’
EC’s Proposed Amended Answer
Even though the EC has already filed an answer to the amended petition, it is still seeking to, again, amend the answer it filed to challenge the petitioner’s claims.
It said it will deny allegations in paragraph 8 of the petitioner’s amended petition that the office of Superlock Technologies Limited (STL) were receiving the results of the elections before transmitting same to the EC’s Strong Room.
‘In answer to paragraph 10 of the 2 nd amended petition, the 2 nd respondent says that there was no such arrangement with STL as alleged, let alone a secret one.’
The commission said STL was the company which, after an international competitive bidding procedure in 2011, was selected, out of 47 companies, local and international, which submitted bids, to provide IT services to the EC for the Biometric Registration and Verification Exercise and that the company had no role to play in the transmission of election results.
The EC said in answer to paragraph 9 of the 2 nd amended petition, it will repeat its answer of paragraph 2 and say that copies of the election results were given to all the representatives of the parties at the constituency collation centres.
It said when the EC wanted to make corrections on one million registered voters after its officials made coding errors it notified Parliament accordingly before embarking on the exercise, using Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2012 (C.I. 72).
The commission said it announced a provisional figure of 13,917,366 and after conducting the registration of Ghanaians abroad made up of foreign service officials, students on government scholarship, those working in international organizations and the late registration of service personnel returning from international peacekeeping duties it announced a figure of 14,158,890.
It says after processing the data to include persons who were wrongly omitted or included as well as multiple registrations, it announced a figure 14,031,793 as the voter population and that was the figure used in printing the Voters Register.
The EC said the word ‘inexplicably’ appearing in the last line of paragraph 12 of the 2 nd amended petition in describing the different figures given as the Voters Register ‘is without justification’ and added, ‘The Voters Register is dynamic, not static, particularly in this era of continuous registration as required by Regulation 9 (of C.I. 72).
The EC said that it forwarded to all the political parties including the petitioners’ party the total number of registered voters as 14,031,793 and the figure 14,158,890 stated in the declaration of the results was an error saying, ‘the correct number of registered voters (14,031,793) was duly posted on the 2 nd defendant’s website.’
‘In this context, it is important to emphasise that this error has no bearing whatsoever on the total votes cast in the election and, consequently, the valid votes obtained by each candidate. The error would only affect the turnout percentage and change it from 79.43 percent to 80.15 percent.’
Votes Declared As Cast
According to the EC, the valid votes when calculated should be 10,995,262 as stated in the declaration of results as announced by its Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, but the petitioners made ‘a mischievous attempt to buttress the baseless accusation’ made against them.
‘Paragraph 18 (ii) of the 2 nd amended petition, unlike the petition filed on December 28, 2012, correctly states the total votes declared by the 2 nd respondent as cast in favour of the contesting presidential candidates.’
The EC said that at all material times, it kept to its decisions and allocated to each polling station 10 percent ballot papers that were above the number of registered voters for the polling station and added that during the printing of the ballot papers it allowed representatives of the parties to monitor the process.
It said the request by the petitioners to invalidate the votes of the polling stations where verification process faced challenges should be refused as unjustified and entirely without merit because the voting process continued the following day.
By William Yaw Owusu