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11.02.2009 Politics

Ablekuma South parliamentary case struck out… As petitioner fails to follow laid down rules

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The desire of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) parliamentary candidate for Ablekuma South in the just ended parliamentary elections, Mr. Francis Kojo Smith, to have the electoral results of the constituency nullified by an Accra Fast Track High Court (FTC), has collapsed.

The FTC, presided over by Justice Ofori-Atta, yesterday, struck out the petition, following the failure of the petitioner in complying fully with the rules of procedure, in respect of payment of “security for cost”, which was to be satisfied within the 21-day requirement after gazetting of the election results, before a petition is filed against an election result in court for redress.

Mr. Smith, a lawyer by profession, challenged the election results that declared the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the constituency, Mr. Fritz Baffour, as winner of the election conducted.

Other respondents to the suit include Mr. Atitso, the Returning Officer for the constituency, who is an agent of the Electoral Commission (EC), as well as the election conducting body.

Setting the issue before the court in motion, Mr. Samuel Codjoe, counsel for the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ablekuma-South, requested that the petition be struck out.

Counsel argued that the Representation of the Peoples' Act, mandates election petitions to be filed within 21 days, together with the payment of “security for cost,” determined by the court.

According to counsel, even though the petitioner complied with the filing of the petition within the required 21 days after election results were gazetted, he failed to pay for the security for cost, as required under the rules.

In view of the stated anomaly, counsel was of the view that the petition filed by the NPP parliament candidate, in the recently held general election, was incompetent, and should therefore be struck out.

In response, Mr. Thomas Hughes, counsel for the petitioner, noted that it was the High Court that was required to determine the security for cost, and since the court had not done so, his client could not go ahead with the payment.

As a result, counsel argued that his client could not be said to be out of time.

Mr. James Idun, counsel for the EC and the Returning Officer for the constituency, emphasised the need for the petitioner to have applied within the 21-day requirement, for the “security for cost” to be determined, and paid for.

The petitioner, Mr. Smith, alleged that the election that took place in the Ablekuma-South constituency on December 7, last year, was plagued with a series of malpractices, which further affected the outcome of the election, to his disadvantage.

To this effect, the NPP parliamentary candidate for the 2008 general election was therefore seeking that the court orders for a recount of the ballot in the constituency, declare the result announced by the EC as null and void, as well as place a perpetual injunction restraining Mr. Baffour from holding himself as the elected MP for Ablekuma-South.

Other reliefs sought, include declaring the petitioner the true winner of the election in dispute, general damages as well as costs.

In his petition, Mr. Smith claimed that out of the 140 polling stations in the constituency, he won maximum votes in over 72 polling stations, which had a higher voter turn-out than those he lost.

According to him, the returning officer declared 50,879 votes for him, and 56,152 votes for his contender, Mr. Baffour, which was based on wrong and fraudulent computations, as the figures certified by the EC were not the true reflection of the results obtained and collated by his polling agents.

The petitioner further contended that the declared winner of the polls, never got the votes computed to him, emphasising on the other hand that he obtained more votes than the figure certified and published by the EC.

Indicating anomalies allegedly perpetrated at some of the polling stations, Mr. Smith cited that there were instances where valid votes cast for him and his closest contender, were wrongly recorded by the EC, to his disadvantage.

He further cited instances where ballot papers in the box, exceeded the total number of valid votes obtained by all the seven candidates who competed in the elections, including rejected votes, as well as total valid votes in the box exceeding total ballot papers issued to voters.

Mr. Smith noted that he and his agents were prevented from entering the collation room at Mamprobi, a suburb of the constituency, on the orders of the returning officers, where he reported the conduct of the returning officer to the Dansoman Police.

According to him, he returned early the following day demanding a recount, when the returning officer told him that the collation had been completed, and that he (returning officer) was not prepared to conduct a fresh collation exercise again.

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