Ghana Supreme Court to start presidential petition hearings
After a tense four-month delay, Ghana's Supreme Court will Tuesday begin hearing the petition against the election of President John Dramani Mahama in a case whose uncertainty has split the country.
The petition against the December 2012 election of Mr Mahama is seen as a test of the country's democracy as the final ruling will produce three results: that the President's election was flawed and he step down; that his main challenger Nana Akufo-Addo is the winner, or the election be run again.
The case has raised political temperatures in the west African country that has enjoyed peaceful elections over the past 21 years. The difference in votes between the two declared by the EC was just 325,863 out of the total of 11,246,982 votes cast, suggesting the country is divided down the middle and any little spark would likely ignite unrest.
Mr Mahama and Mr Akufo-Addo have given assurances that they would abide by the court's decision, but observers say that the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), which has been consolidating power, would be unlikely to accept a decision that goes against it.
Mr Akufo-Addo and two others from the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) filed a petition challenging the election results.
The other petitioners, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, who was Mr Akufo-Addo’s running mate, and chairman of the NPP, Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, want the court to annul a total of 4,670,504 votes cast during the presidential polls.
They argue that these votes that were fraudulently used by the Electoral Commission to declare President Mahama winner of the election.
Ghanaians are hoping the case is heard urgently, but this looks increasingly unlikely as the Supreme Court has ruled that all witnesses appearing before it will have to come by affidavit.
Given that both parties in the case, Nana Akufo-Addo and President Mahama have indicated they would call thousands of witnesses, it is more likely the petition will drag on for months.
The court has said it will determine whether there were any statutory violations, omissions, irregularities and malpractices in the conduct of the elections held on December 7 and 8, 2012.
In addition, it would also ascertain these if any affected the outcome of the results of the elections.
Whilst the country awaits the determination of the case with bated breath, President Mahama, sworn in on January 7, has been exercising his powers as the country’s head of state.
Mr Nana Akufo-Addo. FILE
Mr Nana Akufo-Addo. FILE
This has further stoked fears of unrest among Ghanaians as some NDC members have openly sworn to fight out any decision that would remove President Mahama from office.
Some NPP leaders have also been going around the country predicting a court win for Mr Akufo-Addo, adding to the uncertainty.
When the case was initially called, the NDC was accused by many of using tricks to delay hearing as they served several counter motions in court.
Another case in the Court could also have some bearing on the petition. Mr Bernard Mornah, a leading member of one of the smaller parties, the People’s National Convention (PNC) is seeking a declaration that those who were barred from voting because they could not be verified by the biometric machine had their fundamental rights breached.
One of the issues that Nana Akufo-Addo and his co-petitioners have brought before the court is the decision that allowed some people to vote in areas where the verification machines were faulty.
This, they argue, was in violation of the agreed rules of the election that stipulated that “no verification, no vote.” But widespread malfunctioning of the machines forced some electoral officers to allow some voters to make their ballots.
Therefore, even if Nana Akufo-Addo is declared winner, he is also likely to have his election challenged because of Mr Mornah’s suit before the Supreme Court which has been adjourned, sine dire.