2020 election petition differs from previous one – SC judges explain
Although the 2020 election petition filed by the NDC Flagbearer John Dramani Mahama is seen as a rehash of the 2012/13 presidential election petition, the Supreme Court has explained that the two are distinct.
The apex court, in its ruling explained that the one filed by the then presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo in 2012/13, attacked the validity of the elections.
But the just ended one filed by Mr Mahama sought to challenge only the declaration by the Electoral Commission boss Jean Mensa on December 9, 2020.
The seven-member panel presided over by Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah described the 2012/13 petition as apt.
The court held that the 2013 petition remains one of the most constitutional cases determined in the Ghana’s constitutional dispensation.
“It is therefore not strange that the attention that greeted the 2012 petition also gripped the one before us thus placing the two seemingly similar cases on the same pedestal.
“The big question however is, are the two cases alike or do they present similar issues for determination? The answer to both questions is a big ‘NO’.
“It is therefore not surprising that the petitioner (John Mahama) in his closing address filed on February 23, 2021, admitted the dissimilarity in the instant petition and that of 2012/2013,” the CJ read on March 4.
It will be recalled that the EC Chairperson had declared the results in favour of the New Patriotic Party presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo.
The declaration, the petitioner said was characterised with a lot of illegalities.
The former President, John Mahama said none of the 12 presidential candidates attained the 50 plus one mark for the Electoral Commission (EC) to declare a winner.
Although the EC said the NPP presidential candidate got 51.59 per cent of the votes against Mahama’s 47.37 per cent, the petitioner insists that was not a true reflection of the December 7 polls.
2012/13 Election petition
Now, lets take a look at the 2012/13 petition, which was the first ever petition in the history of the country.
It was filed by then NPP presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, together with Dr Mahamudu Bawumia and the late Jake Otanka Obestebi Lamptey.
The petition filed on December 28, 2012, sought to challenge the declaration of John Dramani Mahama as the president-elect.
The petitioners claimed there had been gross widespread irregularities at 11,916 polling stations. They supported their claim with pink sheets.
The court sat for eight months hearing allegations of over-voting, voting without biometric verification among other things.
Per the petitioners calculation, NPP’s Nana Akufo-Addo won with 59.69 per cent while his contender Mahama polled 39.1 per cent.
The group wanted the apex court to annul the results but after months, the justices in a 5-4 majority decision affirmed that the NDC candidate John Dramani Mahama was validly elected.
The nine-member panel was presided by Chief Justice William Atuguba.
Other panel members include Mrs Akoto-Bamfo, Jones Dotse, S. O. A. Adinyira (Mrs), R. C. Owusu, Sule Gbadegbe, J. Ansah, Paul Baffoe Bonnie and Anin Yeboah.
They declined to declare the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Nana Akufo-Addo as the validly elected president but held the view that the votes affected by these allegations must be annulled and a rerun held.
2020 election petition ruling
The Supreme Court in a unanimous decision dismissed the 2020 election petition filed by the NDC Flagbearer, John Dramani Mahama.
The seven-member panel presided over by Chief Justice Anin-Yeboah, said the petition challenging the declaration of the NPP presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo as the winner of the polls, failed to meet the legal threshold.
The ruling which is the longest yet in the Supreme Court took almost 2 hours to deliver.
The court pointed out that the petitioner, John Mahama, failed to provide any evidence to prove that the declaration by the EC boss Jean Mensa was rigged with errors.
The CJ was of the view that the petitioner’s team led by Tsatsu Tsikata has not presented any data to counter the figures announced by the EC Chairperson on December 9, 2020, as total valid votes.
Citing various authorities in the judgement, the CJ said if the petitioner’s team had presented figures to prove that the New Patriotic Party presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo did not meet the legal threshold, all the reliefs sought would have been granted.
The CJ added that the said unilateral errors made by the EC Chairperson Jean Mensa had no bearing on the matter before the court.
“We are however satisfied from the evidence on record that the figures announced as representing the valid votes obtained by the respective candidates were right and represented the will of the voters.
“We therefore hold that the error committed by the Chairperson of the first respondent cannot void the declaration, which actually announced the true wishes of the voters.
“To hold otherwise will mean that errors in statement and numbers committed by the Chairperson of the first respondent in an election, which do no impact on the outcome of the result, could nullify the actual result,” as contained in the unanimous decision.
The Chief Justice further said the testimonies of the three petition witnesses (NDC General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketia, representatives in the EC strong room Dr Michael Kpessa-Whyte and Robert Joseph Rojo Mettle-Nunoo) were of no relevance to the petition.
The three witnesses, according to the panel, failed to prove to the court the said illegalities that characterised the December 7 election.
According to the panel, the representatives of the NDC flagbearer in the EC strong room basically neglected their duties to oversee happenings in the National Collation Centre.
It was the view of the court that once the representatives signed the regional collation sheets, there was no basis for the complaints.
Justice Yeboah also mentioned that the evidence before the court confirms that the second respondent Nana Akufo-Addo indeed satisfied the 51 per cent threshold, as per the constitution, with the exclusion or inclusion of the Techiman South results.
In effect, the petitioner failed to provide evidence to show that the NPP candidate did not meet the 50 plus benchmark.
Reliefs sought by Mr. Mahama in the 2020 petition
(a) A declaration that Mrs. Jean Adukwei Mensa, Chairperson of first respondent and the Returning Officer for the Presidential Elections held on December 7, 2020 was in breach of Article 63(3) of the 1992 Constitution in the declaration she made on December 9, 2020, in respect of the Presidential Election that was held on December 7, 2020
(b) A declaration that based on the data contained in the declaration made by Mrs. Jean Adukwei Mensa, Chairperson of first respondent and the Returning Officer for the Presidential Elections held on December 7, 2020, no candidate satisfied the requirement of Article 63(3) of the 1992 Constitution to be declared President-elect
(c) A declaration that the purported declaration made on December 9, 2020 ‘of the results of the Presidential Election by Mrs. Jean Adukwei Mensa, Chairperson of first Respondent and the Returning Officer for the Presidential Elections held on December 7, 2020, is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever
(d) An order annulling the Declaration of President-Elect Instrument, 2020 (C.1. 135) dated December 9, 2020, issued under the hand of Mrs. Jean Adukwei Mensa, Chairperson of first respondent and the Returning Officer for the Presidential Elections held December 7, 2020, and gazetted on December 10, 2020
(e) An order of injunction restraining the second respondent from holding himself out as President-elect
f) An order of mandatory injunction directing the first respondent to proceed to conduct a second election with Petitioner and second respondent as the candidates as required under Articles 63(4) and (5) of the 1992 Constitution