Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ghana's Supreme Court begins hearing of election petition

By Xinhua

Accra,

Ghana's Supreme Court on Tuesday began hearing of the substantive petition which is challenging the validity of the election of John Dramani Mahama as president of Ghana.

Three leading members of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the party's presidential candidate, his running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia and Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey, party chairman, have alleged massive irregularities and malpractices in almost 12,000 polling stations during last December's presidential election.

The petitioners are therefore praying the Supreme Court, the highest court of Ghana, to nullify votes coming from such polling stations totaling more than 4 million.

President Mahama, the Electoral Commission and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), who are the respondents to the petition, have however dismissed the allegations and are praying the Supreme Court to throw out the petition. Mahama was not in court personally Tuesday.

When hearing of the substantive case kick-started Tuesday morning, the court realized that the petitioners to the case have not been served with the sworn affidavits of the respondents.

The first and third respondents, President John Dramani Mahama and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) filed their sworn affidavits last Monday but the court was however yet to serve the petitioners. The Electoral Commission, the second respondent to the case, was however yet to file its affidavits and serve them on the petitioners.

This prompted the nine-member panel of the court, presided over by Justice William Atuguba, to adjourn proceedings to Wednesday "in the interest of justice" to allow the EC to file its affidavits and for the affidavits by President Mahama and NDC to be served on the petitioners.

The EC has, up to the close of Tuesday, to comply with the court order.

Earlier, before the start of the hearing of the substantive case, Justice Atuguba set the ball rolling by setting the rules for the hearing of the petition which had variously been described as historic and landmark in the annals of Ghana's democratic dispensation.

He said the entire court proceedings would be broadcast live on television and radio across the country.

There was heavy deployment of security at the premises of the court Tuesday morning, with armed policemen positioned at vantage points in and around the court, to ward off any trouble makers.

The Supreme Court early this month agreed on two issues to be tried in the landmark election petition case which is to be heard by affidavit.

The court will first ascertain the veracity of the claim by petitioners that there were irregularities, omissions, malpractices and violations in the 2012 general election.

It will also find out whether the alleged irregularities, omissions violations, and malpractices, if they did occur, did influence the results of the election.

Ghana was regarded to be leading democracy model as the western African country has never entrapped with instability during power transition since 1992.

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr. Kwadwo Afari- Gyan on Dec. 9, 2012, declared Mahama winner of the presidential poll with 50.70 per cent of the total valid votes cast as against 47.74 percent garnered by the NPP candidate.

Ghanaians are waiting anxiously for the outcome of the trial, which can either stick to or overturn the results declared by the EC.

The Supreme Court is the final arbiter in presidential electoral disputes in Ghana.

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