Who Will Win The ‘Biggest’ Legal Battle in Ghana's History?

The Ghanaian Supreme Court will decide on August 29, 2013 whether Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama was legitimately elected following presidential polls held on 7 and 8 December, 2012.

The Ghanaian Electoral Commission declared President Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) winner with 50.70 percent of the votes, beating his main challenger Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) who polled 47.7 percent of the votes.

The opposition NPP challenged the results arguing that there were gross and widespread irregularities at more than 10,000 polling stations.

The hearing of the petition began on 16 April, 2013. The petitioners are NPP's presidential candidate Nana Akuffo Addo, his running mate Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia and NPP national chairman Jake Obetsebi Lamptey. The respondents are President John Mahama, the Electoral Commission and the ruling National Democratic Congress.

MyJoyOnline has uploaded a video on its YouTube channel (below) of closing argument by counsel for petitioners, Phillip Addison. On August 7, 2013 during his closing argument, Phillip Addison asked the court to declare Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of NPP President because the petitioners were able to prove serious malpractices such as people voting without prior biometric verification, duplicated serial numbers on pink sheets (result forms) and over-voting.

If there were no infractions, he argued, President Mahama would get 41.79 per cent of the valid votes cast, while Nana Akufo-Addo would have 56.85 per cent of the valid votes cast.

Given the emotive nature of the petition, the two major political parties in the country, Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), have pledged their commitment to ensuring peace during and after the judgement.

NPP's projected the results showing Nana Ado winning. Photo source: Nana Ado (NPP's presidential candidate) Facebook page.

Many Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians have taken to blogs and Twitter to share their views and opinions about the greatest legal battle in the history of Ghana. There has never been a successful presidential election petition on the African continent.

Many analysts are speculating the outcome of the petition and what the future holds for Ghana's thriving democracy.

Who will win the petition? Answering this question, Dr Yaw Ohemeng identifies democracy as the ultimate winner:

At the time that the petitioners filed their case at the Supreme Court there were those who dismissed their action as that of sore losers. There were others who also thought that the action would deepen democracy in Ghana. I subscribe to the latter view on the basis that even ahead of the ruling, the benefits to how we practise democracy in Ghana have began to accrue and over the coming years will become even more apparent.

It is a fundamental principle of democracy that anyone who feels aggrieved should be able to avail themselves of legitimate means of seeking redress. For democracy to thrive, the principle that no one is above the law should be upheld. Seeing the sitting President (though not in his Presidential capacity) being a respondent in a case before the courts should be ample demonstration of this principle. The thinly-veiled warning by Justice Atuguba for the President to conduct himself in a manner that would not be contemptuous of the court will also serve as a plank in the type of democracy that Ghana is seeking to build. I am looking forward to the day when a sitting President can be questioned under oath by investigators.

There is something unique about Ghanaian's presidential election petition as Patrick Smith shows:

Similar efforts to scrutinise and assess presidential elections in the United States in 2000 and in Kenya in March this year took less than two weeks, and the judges’ conclusions – to endorse the election of George W. Bush and Uhuru Kenyatta, respectively – were highly contested.
In Ghana, it will have taken more than 50 days of tortuous legal argument, all broadcast live on national television.
The petitioners from the New Patriotic Party (NPP) surprised almost everyone in their efforts to prove that their presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, was unfairly denied victory.
The judges and their advisers were awash in paperwork.
The NPP submitted copies of result sheets from more than 11,000 out of 26,000 polling stations, deluging the court with nearly half a million documents.

Bigger questions, he argues, revolve around issues beyond the petition:

Beyond the immediate drama of the courtroom, there is a nagging question. Was it all worth it?

Doubtless, the Supreme Court judges have dutifully analysed the mechanics of the elections and are likely to make constructive recommendations.

But bigger questions weigh on Ghana's politics beyond the judges’ competence.

How functional and fair is the winner-takes-all system – with a presidency that appoints the cabinet, the heads of the parastatal companies and the regional premiers with few formal requirements to consult other parties?

Worse still, the institutions trying to make the government accountable, such as the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice, lack the resources and the political backing to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing.

As the wait for the Supreme Court to rule continued, a message from the grassroots surfaced: a survey by Berlin-based Transparency International reported that 20 percent of Ghanaians thought that corruption in the country was increasing, particularly among police officers.

Long after the learned friends have spoken, these are issues with which Ghana's politicians will have to grapple.

No matter what the court decision will be, says Angela Slater, Ghana will have to live with the results of one of the biggest legal decisions the country has ever seen:

Can Ghana handle the Supreme Court batting down election results and potentially deposing the current administration? Are Ghanaians able to accept the consequences of the judicial review entrenched in their constitution? This is the question that keeps Ghanaians up at night, and it is the reason you can’t go anywhere without hearing about those pink sheets [results forms]. The concern is legitimate. One of those jailed for contempt of court [The Supreme Court jailed Kenneth Agyei Kuranchie, Managing Editor of The Daily Searchlight and Stephen Atubiga, a member of the ruling National Democratic Congress’s (NDC) communication team for criminal contempt] was a member of the incumbent party who threatened violence if his party was deposed by the court decision. Although he later apologized, his threat plays on the fears of many Ghanaians who know all too well what it means to live under threat of war.

The trial is now coming to a close, and soon Ghana will have to live with the results of one of the biggest legal decisions this country has ever seen. In making its decision, the court has three options: to uphold the election results, call a new election, or award the election victory to the opposing party.

Ameenu Shardow discusses the possible effects of the court's ruling on Ghana's 2014 World Cup qualifier against Zambia, which takes place a few days after the verdict:

The Players
The players who will be representing Ghana on that day will certainly not be immune to the emotions and general mood of the country by then. They are an extension of the larger Ghanaian community so not to kid ourselves, they will be affected. This prospect however can be either good or bad depending on the immediate aftermath of the verdict.
Bad in the sense that a lacklustre performance will be displayed depending on key factors such as a) the state of the country by then b) if they will enjoy that massive support they have been so used to in Kumasi c) will there even be a functioning government in place to promise fat bonuses and the like (dependent on verdict).

1) I suggest the Ghana FA and other related agencies to start getting their plans and all other arrangements in place from now as time really is not on our side.
2) Make an alternative plan including an alternative venue outside the country if need be to ensure the match comes off regardless of what becomes of our country by the time. This will be very difficult due to factors I have earlier mentioned in this piece.
3) Be part of the campaign to educate our people that our dear nation must go on as usual regardless the ruling that is made. Another difficult task but it’s worth the shot.

Ghana Decides, a non-partisan project that was formed to foster a better-informed electorate for free, fair and safe 2012 elections using online social media tools, has prepared pre- and post-verdict events to keep citizens and the world informed and engaged:

The decision to broadcast the petition on national television has given Ghanaians a very rare opportunity not only to see proceedings in the nation’s highest court, but also to have a better understanding of the electoral law.

In preparation for the final ruling which is expected on August 29, 2013, Ghana Decides has outlined a list of activities to keep the citizenry and the rest of the world informed and engaging.

Firstly, Barcamp Tema, which comes off on Saturday, 10 August , 2013 will include a “Peace, One Ghana” segment in which participants would be required to write a peace message inside a printed speech bubble and pose for pictures with it. On Twitter, follow #bctema and #tema00.

A Twitter debate on the election petition will also be held on Tuesday, 13 August at 2PM. We suggest that people follow Ghana Decides (@GhanaDecides) to be able to participate in or follow the debate.

The verdict on the petition will be covered live by accredited personnel of Ghana Decides on social media. This will be followed immediately by post-verdict interviews to find out the reactions of Ghanaians to the ruling.

Barcamp Tamale, which will be held on 17 August , 2013, will also feature the “Peace, One Ghana” segment.

A Google + Hangout some time in August will take more post-verdict reactions from the public.

kumadorian hopes that other African countries are learning from the Ghanaian experience of resorting to the rule of law rather than violence:

Once again Ghanaians have shown to the whole world that it is better to resort to the rule of law to resolve disputes rather than through violent means. This was as a result of the Election Petition Case before the Supreme Court of the country. This has shown how democracy is gradually gaining grounds in the country and i hope other African countries are learning some lessons from what just happened in Ghana. Currently the Justices of the Supreme Court are yet to come out with their ruling on the Election Petition. As they take their time to come out with a ruling that will not jeopadize the nation’s fledgling democratic dispensation, Ghanaians have been asked to accept the ruling of the Justices of the Supreme Court. The National Peace Council and the two political parties involved in the dispute have all taken it upon themselves to educate their followers not to resort to violence when the final ruling comes out.

He concludes:

Lets all do our best to ensure that the peace that we have enjoyed in this country is sustained and strengthened. We have only one Ghana and there is no place like home. God bless Ghana my homeland and make her great and strong.

Louise Burke, an Australian journalist and photographer living in Ghana, imagines what will happen after the verdict:

So, what happens after the decision?
The potential reaction to the decision is very much an unknown factor right now.
In the weeks since the court heard final comments from both parties, community and religious leaders have been urging Ghanaians to accept the result without violence.
Most people who I have talked to believe the result will likely be peaceful, with potential for some pockets of protest.
Despite a series of military coups since independence was granted in 1957, Ghana’s modern political history is relatively non-violent.
However, the country is not immune to small eruptions of protest. In the short time I have been here there was a situation in a suburb of the capital, Accra, where protests by drivers over the state of the roads led to some rioting.
There has also been a noticeable increase in police and military displays on the streets in preparation for the decision.

On Twitter, Dorsah Gariba (@gdpharm95) hopes Ghana will score political democratic leadership in Africa:

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