07.03.2021 Feature Article

Set parameters for presidential election petitions

Set parameters for presidential election petitions
07.03.2021 LISTEN

The Supreme Court of Ghana should set clear parameters for the filing of election petitions at the Apex court of the Land. The Supreme Court must not open its doors to political candidates and their parties to abuse its processes and jurisdiction.

An aggrieved citizen should not just be allowed to exercise his or her right by filing a trifling and easy-to-determine case at the Supreme Court. The current election petition, filed at the Supreme Court, did not meet the basic parameters for challenging the validity of a Presidential Election. It could have solved by petitioning the Parliament of Ghana to demand the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission to account for her stewardship for holding a key public office.

The provisions of Article 64 (1), at first glance, are not restrictive enough to limit the filing of cases. So, it gives a leeway for the filing of petitions that fall below the accepted standards for such a purpose. The Court and other authorities concerned with the setting of the timelines for the expedition of a Presidential Election Petition, should take a cue from the success of the setting of the timelines for the expedition of a trial and its usage in the 2021 case, to formulate a policy for setting quality parameters for Presidential Election Petitions in the country. It is convincingly clear that the 2021 Presidential Election Petition did not meet an appropriate threshold for hearing at the Supreme Court.

The powers of Article 64 (1) should not be invoked, in fact should not be allowed to be invoked, if there is no truthful evidence that meet the provisions of Article 63 (3) which states that “A person shall not be elected as President of Ghana unless at the presidential election the number of votes cast in his favour is more than fifty percent of the total number of valid votes cast at the election”. The requirements of Article 63 (3) will only be met by the petition of an aggrieved citizen if the elections are conducted contrary to the laws of Ghana and other rules and conventions regulating the conduct of elections in Ghana, which will subsequently pave the way for invoking the powers of Article 64 (1) of the Constitution. Such legal infractions need to materially affect the total number of valid votes cast for the person so declared as President elect.

The case filed at the Supreme Court did not provide grounds that explicitly indicate the violations of the laws, rules and other conventions that regulate the conduct of Presidential Elections and Elections in general. The petitioner only complained of an error made in the declaration of the final results collated. The petition clearly failed to cite actual breaches of the electoral laws of Ghana.

It was argued by counsel for the Petitioner that the Electoral Commission Chairperson should be made to mount the witness box so as to account for her stewardship for holding a public office. The highest court of the land should never offer a platform to resolving such fundamental issues, which can be addressed by the Parliament of Ghana through petitions. In fact, the petitioner could have been offered an undenied opportunity to address the issues of accountability through the Parliament of Ghana.

The violations of the electoral laws of Ghana, by means of irregularities as seen in the 2012 elections, have serious implications on Article 63 (3) and later 64 (1). Therefore, any Presidential Election Petition should materially indicate, without fail, how the petition meets the requirements of Article 63 (3). Simply, the powers of Article 64 (1) cannot be invoked in anyway or form if the petition does not show, in part or fully, how the provisions of Article 63 (3) are violated.

Presidential Election Petitions, apart from wasting the precious time of the court and everyone, put unnecessary and excessive pressures on the peace of a country, and equally put much fears into investors due to the uncertainties surrounding their outcomes.

Petitions that lack merit abuse court processes and the exclusive jurisdiction of the court. There should be proper guidelines and parameters for future Presidential Election Petition filing to guard the processes and jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Ghana from intentional abuses.

BY Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey

Economics Tutor, Advocate and Religion Enthusiast.