EC Grills Bawumia

Dr Mahamudu Bawumia

Dr Mahamudu Bawumia

The Electoral Commission (EC), referee in the December 2012 presidential elections, finally took over the cross-examination of the star witness in the ongoing election petition, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, at the Supreme Court in Accra.

James Quarshie-Idun, lead counsel for the EC, started firing a few salvos regarding the mystery 22 polling stations and the responsibilities of the petitioners’ polling agents during the election.

Before then, Tony Lithur, representing President John Dramani Mahama, completed his extended and winding cross-examination of Bawumia.

It had taken Mr. Lithur three and a half working days to complete the cross-examination.

Hot Exchanges

A hot exchange ensued at the latter stages of the cross-examination as Dr. Bawumia discounted suggestions by Mr. Lithur that the allegations of violations, irregularities and malpractices were administrative errors on the part of the 2nd respondent’s (Electoral Commission – EC) officers on duty on the day of election.

Counsel: Dr. Bawumia, I have read your petition and I have read your affidavit and I have listened to your testimony and in not a single case are you accusing anyone of doing anything illegal or irregular, is that correct?

Witness: We have probably about 4.3 million cases where we are demonstrating violations, malpractices, irregularities in the conduct of this election.

Counsel: I’m asking you a direct question; you are not accusing any voter of having done anything wrong.

Witness: This case is not against any voter, we have brought this petition because the second respondent (the EC) did not conduct these elections in a way that gave them integrity; there were violations, irregularities and malpractices and that is what we have brought to court.

Counsel: So you are not accusing the first respondent (President Mahama) of having done anything wrong, are you?

Witness: No, the first respondent just happens to be the beneficiary of these violations, malpractices and irregularities.

Counsel: You are suggesting he resoundingly won the election?

Witness: With violations malpractices and irregularities.

Counsel: My lords, that would be my cross examination.

Unsigned Pink Sheets

The issue of unsigned Pink Sheets and whether or not NPP agents also signed the sheets or issued official protests became contentious between counsel and Dr. Bawumia.

Counsel: One of your claims was that in numerous polling stations, presiding officers did not sign the pink sheets?

Witness: That’s true.

Counsel: You are not challenging the results that were declared at those polling stations?

Witness: Oh, yes we are challenging the results, my lords, because the law requires that those results be signed before declaration to make them valid. It is a constitutional requirement and they were not signed and that is why we are challenging the results.

Counsel: The results that were declared were not challenged at the polling stations, were they?

Witness: The results that were declared were not valid because they were not supported by a signature as required by the constitution.

Counsel: Did you sign any document challenging the result at the polling stations?

Witness: We are here today to challenge those results.

Counsel: Did you or did you not, Dr, challenge at the polling station level, the results that were declared in those instances?

Witness: I am not aware of any challenges, but our agents all testified to those results. The presiding officer needs to sign before declaration. That is the constitutional requirement as I understand it and without that, those results cannot be valid.

Counsel: And you did not challenge those results at the collation centre, did you?

Witness: Those results are being challenged… (Counsel interrupts)

Counsel: You did not challenge those results at the collation centres, did you?

Witness: We did not challenge those results at the collation centre or on the way to the collation centre, but we are challenging them now because they are unconstitutional.

Counsel: And you can confirm that your polling agents signed those results at the polling stations?

Witness: Our polling agents in some of the situation signed again to attest to some of things that went on at those polling stations.

Counsel: I am suggesting to you that without exception, all your polling agents signed the Pink sheets at the polling station level.

Witness: Then that would be fine, but the presiding officer did not sign, and that is constitutionally required.

Counsel: Is that a yes or no, do you agree with me or you don’t?

Witness: I can’t remember, but it’s not something I want to argue over, the issue is that the presiding officer, as required by the law, did not sign and that makes it invalid, that’s my understanding by the way.

(Justice Atuguba interrupted saying “Can you be a bit more direct, when he poses a question? You don’t elect the version of it that you want…You answer according to the version he has put to you. You see, what he was asking you is that, at the collation centres, all your agents signed the results declared there.)

Witness: The agents signed at the polling stations, my lords, and not the collation centres.

Justice Atuguba:  You are saying they signed at the polling stations and not at the collation centres?

Witness: Yes my lords, the law requires that the signature be at the polling station and no other place before the results are declared.

Counsel: At the collation centres, your counting and, or other agents confirmed those results by signing, it that not correct?

Witness: At the collation centres, they may have signed, but we are saying that those results are invalid because the presiding officer did not sign as required by law.

Counsel: At those stations, exclusive to your claims of presiding officers not signing, you are not complaining that there is over-voting are you?

Witness: No.

Counsel: Nobody went through the process without biometric verification?

Witness: No, we are not complaining….we are only complaining about the constitutional violations (Counsel Interrupts)

Counsel: You are not complaining that nobody went through the process without biometric verification?

Witness: No, we are not complaining.

Irrelevant Question

Counsel: Doctor, are you suggesting that a presiding officer can determine the outcome of an election just by not signing a pink sheet?

Witness: It’s not me; it’s the constitution which determines that.

Counsel: The constitution doesn’t say that.

Justice Atuguba interrupted Counsel and said, “This is a legal question”.

Counsel: I am suggesting to you that if what you are saying is true, I can very well bribe a presiding officer to determine the outcome of an election for me…. But the judge interrupted again and said, “This is still out of gear.

Justice Atuguba then said “but let me get the relevance,” and Dr. Bawumia said “The only complaint is the constitutional violation of no signature of the presiding officer or their assistants.”

Counsel: So that is the reason why you wanted votes of innocent voters wiped out, so you become Vice President. But Justice Atuguba did not allow the witness to answer the question.

Counsel: I am suggesting to you that it is not true that in the stations that you have referred to polling station presiding officers in all the circumstances did not sign the pink sheets, or put another way: The presiding officers did in fact sign the pink sheets.

Witness: I don’t think I have any polling station that I’m currently relying on that has a presiding officer who signed.

EC’s Cross-examination

Mr. Quarshie-Idun, taking over from Mr. Lithur, bombarded Dr. Bawumia with a series of questions.

The EC’s counsel, who intermittently wiped his face as he was drenched in sweat in an air-conditioned courtroom, first took the witness through the processes that a voter goes through in casting his/her ballot to which Dr. Bawumia responded in the affirmative.

Counsel: Dr. Bawumia, in your Evidence-in-Chief, you took us through the pink sheets, now let us go through the procedure at the polling stations; The voter presents his ID card to the names and list officer, is that not correct?

Witness: That’s correct sir.

Counsel: Now this officer does a quick check of the name of the voter in the name reference book alphabetically?

Witness: That is correct.

Counsel: Then the officer locates the name of the voter and communicates the page number on the register to the verification officer?

Witness: That is correct, that is what is supposed to happen.

Counsel: Then the name list officer, inks the voter with indelible ink.

Witness: That is correct, that is what is supposed to happen.

Counsel: Then the verification takes place. The verification officer verifies the identity of the voter using the verification device?

Witness: That is what is supposed to happen.

Counsel: They do this by scanning the bar code of the voter on the voters’ ID card with the machine?

Witness: Yes my lords, that is what is supposed to happen.

Counsel: When that happens, the picture of the voter pops up?

Witness: That’s what is supposed to be… (Counsel walks the witness through all the processes of voting)…

Exalted Observers

Counsel: Dr. Bawumia, the polling or counting agent has the right to call for a recount if he or she wishes?

Witness: That is correct.

Counsel: And the agent also has a right to call for a second recount if he or she has any doubt?

Witness: That is correct.

Counsel: In that case, the presiding officer can refuse if he thinks the request is unreasonable?

Witness: That is correct.

Counsel: In that case, the presiding officer needs to report to the returning officer of the constituency, if that is done, is it not so?

Witness: Yes my lords…. (Counsel takes the Witness through the functions of a polling agent)….

Counsel: Now, you mentioned that the polling agents were mere observers as to what happens at the polling station?

Witness: Yes, I mean they are very much in the position of exalted observers because, they can really, should the presiding officer say so, be excluded from the station. But they are not really even in direct proximity overlooking verification, overlooking identification and so on…. (Counsel cuts in)

Counsel: Dr. Bawumia, you are a witness in the witness box, listen to the question and please answer it to your lordships, no extras. So Dr. Bawumia, you are aware that the Electoral Commission issued a guide to candidates and their agents, you referred to an earlier guide, but this is another guide: a guide to candidates and agents, you are aware of it, are you not?

Witness: I have not seen this one, but I’m sure it exists as you are holding it.

Counsel: It was issued for the 2012 elections… (Counsel of Petitioners intervenes)

Counsel (Philip Addison): My lords I thought they would be tendering their documents through the returning officers, but they choose to tender it through our witness, we have no objection… (Laughter from the court).

Counsel: My lords, I wish to tender this document in evidence: The Electoral Commission Guide for Candidates and their Agents for the 2012 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. Doctor Bawumia, could you kindly turn to page 10 of the document and under the heading, ‘The Importance of Polling Agents’. May I request you to read that part?

Witness: (Reads out the portion as instructed)

Counsel: Now Doctor Bawumia, in the light of these guidelines, I’m suggesting to you that your evidence to the court that agents are merely exalted to what happened is not accepted.

Witness: Oh yes, they are observers, they have a role to play, as I said, the presiding officer is in charge of that polling station, it’s not the polling agent….

Counsel: (On top of his voice) Mr. Bawumia, you are to listen to the question and answer it…(Witness cuts in)

Witness: I’m answering (general laughter from court)…I’m telling you this election was run by the Electoral Commission….(Counsel cuts in again)

Counsel: Mr. Bawumia, I am suggesting to you that the statement that you made to the court that polling agents are mere observers is not correct.

Witness: No, I said they were exalted observers, not mere observers and I’m saying to you….. (Counsel cuts in)

Counsel: Mr. Bawumia, I’m asking you a question and I expect an answer, you said they are not mere observers but exalted observers, I’m suggesting to you that that is not correct.

Witness: Well, that is your opinion, I disagree.

 

Collaboration

Counsel: Dr. Bawumia, towards the elections, the EC collaborated closely with the political parties, is that not correct?

Witness: That is correct.

Counsel: For example, the political parties were given a briefing about the printing of the ballot papers, is that not correct?

Witness: That is correct.

Counsel: The political parties were invited and did send representatives to the printing houses that were engaged to print the ballot papers; is that not correct?

Witness: That is correct, but not duplicate pink sheets.

Ghost Polling Stations

The EC counsel later tendered in evidence through Dr. Bawumia some letters indicating that the petitioner’s party delegated agents to some of the 22 polling stations that they claimed were non-existent.

By William Yaw Owusu

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