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Election Petition: Supreme Court affirms Mahama’s victory

BY: Samuel K. Obour

John Mahama prepares to address the nation after his election victory was upheld by the Supreme CourtSome predicted doom, bought tickets and flew out of the country, while many waited with bated breath to “feed” on whichever way the judgement would go.

But Ghana’s democracy once again triumphed on the corridors of law.

In less than five minutes, the Supreme Court settled the eight-month long “pink sheets war” and affirmed President John Dramani Mahama as the validly elected President of the Republic of Ghana.

The legal war has officially ended because the contender for the presidency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has conceded defeat, congratulated President Mahama and decided not to challenge the court’s decision.

The petitioners and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) faithful did not look happy but managed some smiles, shook hands with one another and patted their backs.

Ghana’s national flag was distributed among members of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) whose candidate for the December 2012 elections had been affirmed by the Supreme Court as the President of Ghana. They sang jubilant songs to praise God for the affirmation.

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Lawyers for President Mahama, the Electoral Commission (EC) and the NDC, Mr Tony Lithur, Mr James Quashie-Idun and Mr Tsatsu Tsikata, respectively, expressed gratitude to the court, while lead counsel for the petitioners, in response to the court’s decision, said, “As the court pleases.”

The Returning Officer of the December 2012 presidential election, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, looked happy and received congratulatory messages and handshakes from some well-wishers. He had testified during the hearing of the petition and stood by his declaration of President Mahama as the winner.

Members of the NDC simultaneously brought out white handkerchiefs and waved them, amid smiles, immediately the nine justices had left the courtroom.

 

The Decision

In a 6-3 majority decision, the court dismissed the petitioners’ legal contest for the highest office of the land and maintained President Mahama’s presidency which had been under “legal fire” from December 9, 2012 till yesterday, August 29, 2013 when the dust settled.

Nana Akufo-Addo, First PetitionerMr Justice William Anam Atuguba, Mrs Justice Sophia Adinyira, Mr Justice Jones Victor M. Dotse, Mr Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Mr Justice N. S. Gbadegbe and Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo, in an “overall” decision, dismissed the petitioners’ claim for the annulment of 3,931,339 votes due to electoral irregularities in the December 7 and 8, 2012 presidential election.

The dissenting justices, who held the view that there were issues to be settled with allegations of over-voting, absence of presiding officers’ signature and voting without biometric verification, were Mr Justice Julius Ansah, Ms Justice Rose Constance Owusu and Mr Justice Anin Yeboah.

They were of the opinion that the votes affected by these allegations must be annulled and a re-run held.

 

Unanimous Decision

On the allegations of some pink sheets having duplicated serial numbers, duplicate polling station codes and voting taking place in 22 unknown locations, the court unanimously dismissed the claims.

 

“The Swap”

There was an interesting swap in the votes of the justices because Ms Justice Owusu had, on January 22, 2013, added her vote to five others to allow the NDC to join the petition as the third respondent, while Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie had joined two others to say ‘no’ to the NDC.

However, the two “legally swapped” places when Ms Justice Owusu upheld the claims of the petitioners, with Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie granted the prayer of the respondents.

 

Registrar to forward judgement to Electoral Commission

Regulation 71 of the Supreme Court Amendment Rules, 2012,  (CI 74) says: “The court shall, at the conclusion of the hearing of the petition, deliver its judgement and the registrar shall, within seven days of the delivery of the judgement, forward a copy of the judgement to the Electoral Commission.’’

The EC is, therefore, expected to officially hold another press conference to announce the decision of the court and, accordingly, affirm its December 9, 2012 declaration of President Mahama as the winner of the presidential poll.

 

By Court

Mr Justice Atuguba read out the judgement as follows:

Mr Justice William Atuguba, President of nine-member panel“Upon a scrutiny of the petition, we found that the issues to be determined are as set out at page 125 of the counsel for the petitioners’ written address.

“They are as follows: i) Over-voting, ii) Voting without biometric verification, iii) Absence of the signature of a presiding officer, iv) Duplicate serial numbers; that is, occurrence of the same serial numbers on pink sheets for two different polling stations, v) Duplicate polling station codes; that is, occurrence of different results/pink sheets for polling stations with the same polling station codes, and vi) Unknown polling stations; that is, results recorded for polling stations which are not part of the 26,002 polling stations provided by the second respondent for the election.

“We unanimously dismiss the claims relating to duplicate serial numbers, duplicate polling station codes and unknown polling stations.

 

Dismissal of Claim of Over-voting

“Atuguba, Adinyira, Baffoe-Bonnie, Gbadegbe and Akoto-Bamfo dismiss the claim of over-voting.

 

Dismissal of claims of absence of signatures

“Atuguba, Adinyira, Baffoe-Bonnie, Gbadegbe, Akoto-Bamfo dismiss the claims relating to absence of signature of presiding officer on the pink sheets.

Dismissal of claims of voting without biometric verification

“Atuguba, Adinyira, Dotse, Baffoe-Bonnie, Gbadegbe and Akoto-Bamfo dismiss the claim relating to voting without biometric verification.

 

The dissenting three

“Ansah, Owusu and Anin-Yeboah, JSC, grant all the three claims; that is, over-voting, absence of presiding officers’ signature and voting without biometric verification, annul votes involved and order a re-run of the affected areas.

“Mr Justice Dotse upholds claims of over-voting and absence of signatures

“Dotse JSC granted the claim of over-voting but has provided a road map in his judgement as in the figures of votes to be ascertained and cancelled and a re-run of the areas affected.

“Dotse JSC upholds the claim relating to absence of presiding officers’ signatures on the pink sheets, cancels the results concerned and orders a rerun of the areas affected.

“Baffoe-Bonnie JSC grants claims of voting without biometric verification, cancels the votes involved and orders a re-run of the areas affected.

 

Overall effect of the judgement

“In the circumstance, the overall effect is that the first respondent was validly elected and the petition is, therefore, dismissed.

“Our various judgements, for the sake of convenience, are handed over to the registrar of this court.”

 

KPMG commended

The court highly commended the services of KPMG, the official referee appointed on May 9, 2013 to conduct an audit of the pink sheets. The audit firm submitted its report on June 24, 2013.

Lawyers for the parties in the petition were also commended by the court.

 

Short but long judgement

Many had expected the court to spend more than an hour in delivering its judgment but it decided to read out its consequential orders and rather directed the parties to get copies of the full judgement from the Supreme Court Registry.

As of press time, a certified true copy of the full judgement which is expected to be voluminous was not ready.

 

These are not light matters

It was a tense moment when the nine-member panel entered the packed courtroom. The court was unusually quiet, to the extent that only the sound of shuffled pieces of paper could be heard.

Mr Justice Atuguba set the ball rolling by apologising to the audience in the courtroom for the panel’s seeming delay, adding, “These are not light matters.”

The panel was expected to begin delivering its judgement by 10 a.m. but it entered the courtroom at 12:54 p.m. and began delivering its judgement at 1:05 p.m.

 

Waiting and Speculation

The nervous atmosphere that engulfed Ghana in 2008 and 2012 before the declaration of the winner of the presidential elections of those years was replicated at the Supreme Court from 10 a.m. to  12:54 p.m. when the nine-member panel entered the courtroom to deliver its judgement.

The mood in the courtroom was that of apprehension, as the litigants, their lawyers, the media and members of the public awaited the final decision on the pink sheet war.

Many had expected the court to start delivering its judgement by 10 a.m. (its usual time of sitting), but as of 12 noon there was no sign of the judges.

Speculation on what was happening among the justices was rife on social media through text messages and telephone calls.

Questions such as "what's is happening?" kept flowing from all angles.

To ease tension, the party functionaries of both sides went out of the courtroom either to grant interviews to journalists or have private chats.

Others remained glued to their seats in the courtroom.

 

Photo shoot moments

Journalists, on the other hand, took opportunity of the delay to take memorable photographs after eight long months of covering the proceedings.

 

Analysis of Petitioners’ Case

The petitioners — Nana Akufo-Addo; his running mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, and NPP Chairman, Jake Obetsebi Lamptey — had indicated that using pink sheets from 10,119 polling stations, over-voting occurred at 1,722 polling stations, while the occurrence of voting without biometric verification occurred at 2,020 polling stations.

The irregularity of absence of presiding officers’ signature occurred at 1,638 polling stations, while the use of duplicate serial numbers on pink sheets affected 8,987 polling stations.

They also alleged irregularities of voting taking place at 23 unknown locations, while some pink sheets had duplicated polling station codes.

According to the petitioners, when the results of those polling stations were annulled, President Mahama’s votes would be reduced by 2,622,551, which would result in him securing 41.79 per cent of the new tally of valid votes.

They said Nana Akufo-Addo’s votes would also be reduced by 1,233,186 but that would still see him securing 56.85 per cent of the new tally of valid votes, more than the needed 50 per cent plus one to be declared as winner of the Presidency.

The petitioners also showed in their addresses that all the four main irregularities on their own had a material impact on the results declared and that annulling the polling stations affected by any of the four irregularities would mean that the declared winner, Mr Mahama, did not secure the required over 50 per cent.

But President Mahama, the EC and the NDC refuted the allegations and prayed the court to dismiss the petition as not proven.

 

Powers of the Court

The Supreme Court delivered the judgement in line with the powers conferred on it under Article 64 (1, 2 and 3) of the 1992 Constitution and the Supreme Court Amendment Rules, 2012 (CI 74).

By Mabel Aku Baneseh/Daily Graphic/Ghana

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