Thursday, 20 October 2016

Legal Battle Between Disqualified Presidential Aspirants, EC

There is a growing concern and fears that the December 7, 2016 electoral calendar could be negatively affected following the rising number of disputes between some disqualified presidential aspirants and the Electoral Commission [EC]. The EC on October 10, 2016 declined to accept the nominations of 12 aspirants after it detected errors on their forms. While majority of the disqualified aspirants claimed the errors were clerical and administrative, the EC insisted that some were criminal and bother on perjury and forgery which cannot be allowed to go unpunished. So far, the National Democratic Party, the Progressive People's Party and the Independent People's Party have sued the Commission over the matter. The People's National Convention and the All People's Convention have also given the EC up to October 20 to reinstate their candidates or face them in court. From the look of things, none of the parties to the dispute is willing to compromise and they are prepared to fight to the end. It is said that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. In this situation, if this litigation lingers, the whole nation stands to suffer. We must not lose sight of the fact that, we just about 48 days to the election.

The point is that, before the election, there ought to be a number of things done first. One can talk of balloting for placement on the ballot paper, printing and posting of notices of polls, printing of ballot papers and many more which cannot be done in a day or a week. That is why the fears of a possible delay in the holding of the elections are real. The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has also raised doubts over the ability of the Electoral Commission to successfully conduct Election 2016. According to CODEO, “The EC is working with a timetable, and looking at the legal suits filed against the EC by the presidential aspirants following their disqualification, the election process might delay. At this juncture, one can only appeal to the Electoral Commission, IPAC and other identifiable bodies to intervene in the disputes. It is in this light that the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Theodora Wood must be commended for designating seventeen specialized courts to deal with electoral disputes that may arise before the December 7, presidential and parliamentary elections.

Again, it is noteworthy that the Chief Justice has also directed that the hearing of all electoral cases should take precedence over all other cases pending before the courts. A statement issued and signed by the Judicial Secretary, Justice Alex B. Poku Acheampong said the designated Judges have also been directed to hear the election related cases on a day-to-day basis including weekends but excluding Public Holidays from 9am to 6pm. This is a laudable move which will go a long way to ensure that the national electoral calendar is not unduly delayed. It will be important that the assigned judges strictly adhere to these directives and ensure that they hear electoral dispute cases expeditiously. Even though it is said that the wheels of justice grind slowly, this must not be tolerated in this instance. We should not allow what happened at the Supreme Court, where the dispute over the 2012 presidential election lasted for eight months to repeat itself. It is imperative for all the relevant stakeholders in the election to work with the judiciary for a speedy adjudication of cases to ensure a smooth and violent free election. Time is ticking fast and there is therefore the need for players in the election to expeditiously deal with all issues likely to mare the electoral process. Thankfully, the EC has given indications that it is willing to abide by any decision taken by court, even if it includes reinstating any or all of the disqualified aspirants.

Ghana has a worldwide reputation as a model of democracy and beacon of hope on a continent best known for wars emanating from electoral disputes. We have held six general elections which were largely free and fair and which saw the transfer of power from one political party to another. This year cannot and should not be an exception. If anything at all, it should be better, more transparent, more inclusive and more credible.


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