A year ago today, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ghana delivered its decision on the challenge New Patriotic Party (NPP) flagbearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, mounted against President John Dramani Mahama and the electoral Commission contesting the legitimacy of the results of the 2012 Presidential election. The petitioner’s case sought the Supreme Court to overturn the election results based on allegations of voter fraud, and compromised vote counting procedures by the Electoral Commission in 10,000 out of more than 26,000 polling stations. The eight month-long saga ended with the Court upholding the validity of the 2012 election results that pronounced President Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) party as the “validly elected” President of Ghana.
Indeed, the case brought sunlight to the lapses and administrative sloppiness in the Electoral Commission’s conduct of the elections, including the compromised integrity of some votes cast because of technical glitches that occurred with the biometric voter identity verification system. However, as the Supreme Court’s ruling indicated, the petitioners did not prove that the overall effect of these deficiencies could justify annulling the votes of so many voters.
The presiding Judge, Supreme Court Justice William Atuguba argued that “Beyond the individual’s right to vote is the collective interest of the constituency and indeed of the entire country in protecting the franchise.” The vote, he said was “sacred” and the body he was presiding over had the constitutional obligation to protect citizens’ duly exercised rights from annulment due to administrative errors.
It is precisely the interest of protecting CITIZENS’ constitutional rights in exercising their franchise, that we ask: What happened to the reforms that the Supreme Court prescribed in its ruling a year ago, as Justice Attugubah stated below?
• The Voters register must be compiled and made available to the parties as early as possible.
• A supplementary register may cater for late exigencies.
• The calibre of presiding officers must be greatly raised up.
• The pink sheet is too elaborate, a much simpler one to meet the pressures of the public, weariness and lateness of the day at the close of a poll etc.
• The carbon copying system has to be improved upon.
• The Biometric Device System must be streamlined to avoid breakdowns and the stress on the electorate involved in an adjournment of the poll.
• Invalidating wholesale votes for insignificant excess numbers is not the best application of the administrative principle of the proportionality test.
In a follow up story, we hope to bring you answers directly from the Electoral Commission. However, more critical to the fabric of our polity, the court case also revealed the depths of political polarization in Ghana. To be sure, the vigorous contest between differing political and economic ideologies is a healthy component of Democracy and signals people self-organizing on the basis of well-articulated principles and shared interests as opposed to blind reliance on ethnic or religious allegiances.
The case opened a different Pandora’s Box. We’ve seen the split between accepting electoral outcomes and acknowledging the legitimacy of the winners of elections. A further deepening of this split bodes ill for our Democracy which depends on opposing sides agreeing to accept the will of the people.