Concern mounts over possible postponement
By Joseph Ojumu
There are fears that a flurry of cases currently before the courts could hamper Ghana’s scheduled presidential and general elections which are curently billed for December 7, The Difference checks have unveiled.
Already, several political parties and candidates have sued Ghana’s electoral commission after their candidates were excluded from this year’s general elections.
Across the country, there is rising concern that on account of these unexpected suits, the elections could be delayed.
One notable candidate who had sued the country’s election management body for disqualifying him from running for the presidency on December 7 is the businessman, Papa Kwesi Nduom. The Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) had made the decision to exclude him and several others from the polls after it claimed that it had detected errors in the nomination forms handed in by him and the other candidates. A court has since ordered that he be given a chance to correct the said errors.
But time is of essence and the legal challenge between the Electoral Commission and the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) in particular, from all indications, does not seem to be ending soon.
Following the court ruling in its favour, the party has stated that they may not be able to rectify the many errors the EC claims to have identified in their presidential nomination forms aside the first one they mentioned to them.
The PPP’s Director of Policy Kofi Asamoah Siaw in an interview with Accra-based Citi FM said they may not be able to complete their corrections before the close of day today.
“As at now we don’t even have the form, we don’t even have the list of errors. And this is unacceptable because nobody asked you to go and look for extra mistakes on the form. Their directives given coupled with the number of days given is not enough. It tells that you have decided to do everything in your power to frustrate us.”
It seems the EC has found much more errors in the presidential nomination forms of the party.
In a letter written to the PPP it enumerated other errors which the party needed to correct before they could be allowed to contest in the presidential race.
The letter mentioned the anomalies to include:“you must have a minimum of two subscribers in every district of Ghana and that your subscribers are all validly registered voters, that your subscribers have duly endorsed your nomination papers as required by law, and a subscriber cannot nominate more than one presidential candidate.”
The commission’s directive comes hours after the Supreme Court asked the election management body to extend the nomination period to November 8, and allow the candidates to correct their mistakes in order to contest the polls.
The court also ordered the discontinuation of the various court cases regarding the disqualification of other presidential aspirants.
Another disqualified aspirant, Hassan Ayariga had earlier queried why upon their allegedly discoving the error, the commission had not taken the simpler path of returning the forms to the parties for explanations and corrections.
This spate of legal action has raised fears that the elections might have to be postponed. Speaking recently to DW, Political analyst Kwesi Jonah expressed the view that the commission should try to reach an out-of-court settlement with the concerned candidates: “Assuming that we are not able to hold elections on December 7 because of the court cases, what happens?” he asked. Jonah would like Ghana to maintain its reputation as a peaceful country with a tradition of free, fair and transparent elections.
There are other cases pending in court. The EC went to the Supreme Court to challenge a ruling faulting it for not giving aggrieved candidates enough time to correct the alleged errors on their application forms. Many fear that the sum of legal battles will disrupt the election calendar.
Georgina Theodora Wood, the country’s chief justice, plays down these fears. But she warned: “We need to conduct our affairs in the nation’s interest and in a just manner that will not disrupt our electoral or our constitutional calendar.”
Upbeat, the EC however does not expect the court’s actions to disrupt the polls. Chairperson Charlotte Osei announced that almost 90 percent of preparations for the elections have been completed. “You cannot only look at the case from the perspective of those whose nominations were not accepted. You also have to look at the rights of those who met the requirements within the nomination period. So we have to be very balanced and we have to follow the law,” Osei said.
She added that the commission has started printing the parliamentary ballots to make up for some of the time already lost.
Despite official optimism, Ghanaian voters are doubtful. “Looking at the rate at which the cases are coming, I am beginning to worry about the process that the Electoral Commission has to put together before the elections,” an Accra resident noted.
Another resident is worried about the way the cases are going on in court: “It won’t surprise me if the court decides to postpone the elections to allow it to address all the cases against the Electoral Commission.”
As things stand today, the EC’s disqualifications have left voters with only four presidential candidates to choose from. They include the frontrunners, incumbent President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress, who is running for a second and final term; and his main rival, the opposition leader, Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party who is trying for the third time to clinch the number one job.
Analysts say that should the polls be postponed, it will be a negative blot on Ghana’s fairly impressive democratic credentials, given that it has been able to sustain a relatively decent electoral trajectory since 1992 when former military dictator, Flight Lieutenant John Jerry Rawlings had secured the presidency in the first elections that was conducted in the current democratic era.
Disqualified candidate, Papa Kwesi Nduom