How Supreme Court Arrived At Modalities For Election Petition

The Supreme Court (SC) looking into an election petition filed by the 2012 Presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and two others, yesterday set out modalities for trial and fixed April 16, this year, for definite hearing of the case, which is challenging the declaration of President John Mahama as winner of the December 2012 Presidential election..

The court, presided over by Justice William Atuguba, took the decision and set out two issues for trial, after parties in the election petition failed to arrive at definite issues to be looked into by the court.

The issues settled on by the court for trial are: ‘whether or not violations, omissions, malpractices and irregularities took place during the conduct of the December 2012 Presidential elections, as well as whether or not the violations, omissions, malpractices and irregularities if any, affected the results of the Presidential Election’.

To expedite the determination of the case before it, the court has, therefore, settled on receiving affidavits from intended witnesses of parties in the election petition, thereby cutting off anticipated thousands of witnesses intended to be fielded by various parties in the case, to mount the witness box.

Additionally, it is accepting oral evidence from the petitioners, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, his running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia and the party’s National chairman, Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, as well as the respondents; President John Mahama, the Electoral Commission (EC) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

The court further ordered the petitioners to file their affidavits of witnesses they intend to rely on in the case by April 7, this year, while respondents should respond within five days.

Other panel members are Justices Julius Ansah, Sophia Adinyira, Rose Owusu, Jones Dotse, Anin-Yeboah, Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, SuleGbadegbe and Vida Akoto-Bamfo.

Furthermore, the court, by a 6:2 majority decision granted the EC’s request to amend their response to the petition by making some additions and also demanding that petitioners should support their allegations of accusations of bad faith and injustice made against the Commission in the conduct of the December 2012 election in their election petition filed before the court.

The court gave petitioners up to April 3, this year, an answer to the request made by the EC.

Meanwhile, a request by petitioners for evidence to be shown by power point presentation before court was totally rejected by respondents to the petition as well as the court.

The court also heard from respondents that the petitioners have failed to comply with its order of furnishing further and better particulars on polling stations, where they alleged irregularities took place during the December 7 and December 8 2012 elections.

According to respondents, the petitioners have provided a reduced number of polling stations as against the number they previously stated as being affected by the irregularities.

The EC had requested that the petitioners be made to provide the remaining further and better particulars of six polling stations out of the 28 polling stations they originally alleged that voting took place during the election, apart from the 32, 000 polling stations.

The EC noted that the petitioner provided only particulars of 22 polling stations instead of 28 polling stations they alleged.

Counsel for the petitioners, Mr. Philip Addision noted that the EC had been provided with particulars of the polling stations, adding that in their amended petition filed on February 8, this year, contained details of all allegations made.

Mr. Tony Lithur, counsel for President John Mahama and Mr. TsatsuTsikata, counsel for the NDC, complained about shortages in the number of further and better particulars of polling stations  that petitioners have alleged irregularities took place.

They have noted that the petitioners keep on changing the numbers they alleged to have been affected by election irregularities as they moved from 11,916 polling stations and now claiming their allegation is affection 8,579 polling stations.

The court was of the view that the number of polling stations allegedly affected by irregularities, of which further and better particulars were provided by the petitioners, were the ones to be looked into by the court during the trial.

The petitioners are challenging the December 2012 election, in which the EC had declared President Mahama as winner of the Presidential polls.

They are, therefore, requesting the court to investigate the results declared in 11,916 polling stations, stressing that they have evidence of irregularities and malpractices in those polling stations which could nullify the votes in those polling stations.

The petitioners had initially called for the cancellation of 1,342,845 valid votes cast during the election at 4,709 polling stations due to what they termed ‘gross and widespread irregularities’, recorded during the elections, but are now praying the court to pronounce as invalid an additional 3,327,659 valid votes cast during the elections.

According to the amended petition, 2,009 pink sheets were unsigned by the presiding officers but the EC is claiming that, ‘1,099 were in fact, signed by the presiding officers at the polling stations or, at the instance of the returning officers at the collation centres and 905 were unsigned’.

The EC further noted that 1,989 of the alleged unsigned pink sheets were signed by the polling or counting agents of petitioners According to the EC, there was no single shred of evidence to suggest that the total number of votes cast exceeded the number of voters on the register.

The EC further stated the petitioners failed to comply with the court’s rulings of February 5 and 7, 2013 to provide particulars of the alleged other 28 locations where voting took place.

It said upon careful examination and analysis of the petitioners’ particulars, there was no justification for the deduction of votes from the votes cast in favour of the various presidential candidates.

‘It should be kept in mind that all agents (of candidates) present at each polling station were given copies of the certified results of the polling station,’ adding it was clear some representatives had presented ‘incomplete or inaccurate constituency data to sustain the allegation of discrepancies which the second respondent considers to be heart of this suit,’ the EC said in its amended answer.

The EC said the call by the petitioners for the cancellation of votes cast at where ‘a polling station used for the presidential and parliamentary election was also used for special voting (by security personnel etc.), that polling station kept the same code number through the results of the Special Voting and the results of the voting on December 7 and 8, 2012, were given separately,’ should be invalidated, ‘should be refused as being unjustified and entirely without merit.’

It said in a ‘mischievous attempt’ to buttress baseless accusations made by them to the media, the petitioners deliberately used an erroneous figure of 14,158,880 instead of 10,995,262 as the total number of votes cast in favour of the contesting presidential candidates among others.

In response to the petitioners claim that an ‘invisible sleight of hand, which transmogrified the total number of registered voters from 14,031,680 to 14,158,890 remained inexplicable to date; the EC said, ‘the second respondent says that the genuine error made by it with regard to the total number of registered voters is fully explained …and therefore, cannot be by any stretch of imagination be described as a transmogrification.’

The EC further held that in a stern but a lighter note that, the Farlex Dictionary describes transmogrification, ‘as the process of complete and usually extreme or grotesque change from one state or form to another; the transmogrification of a prince to a porcupine.’

It argued that it was important to recall that, ‘in both the presidential and parliamentary elections, at each polling station, representatives of the candidates are present, and verification and voting are carried out in public view.’

‘Furthermore, immediately after the close of the poll, votes cast are counted in the full glare of the public and are recorded and are announced to the public. It is to be noted that agents have the right to ask for a recount of the votes or to refuse to sign the Declaration Form and give their reasons for the refusal.’

The EC has attached exhibits to prove its claim that the elections were held on a clean sheet and results declared were accurate and credible.