For the first time in the History of Ghana, the Supreme Court had to be the arbiter in a closely contested Presidential electionsin 2012. The then main opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), prayed the apex Court to annul votes from some twenty-six thousand (26,000) polling stations where they uncovered irregularities such as cases of over voting and instances when people not registered by the new biometric finger-printing system were able to vote.
The party had calculated that there were extra 1.34 million votes cast in favor of then President John Dramani Mahama, which if annulled from the final tally would make then opposition candidate Akuffo Addo the winner.
The Supreme Court adjudicated on the matter and pronounced that those irregularities were not enough to overturn the verdict of the Electoral Commission, thus, retained then President John Dramani Mahama as President after eight (8) months of legal battle.
The duration of proceedings affected various aspects of the country’s economy and other facets of our daily activities. This, therefore necessitated proposals by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the citizenry that, in future, there should be shorter time period.
By the new C.I 99 as introduced in 2016 to resolve electoral matters, the petitioner has twenty-one (21) days to file a petition after the results have been declared by the Electoral Commission.
The Supreme Court has therefore outlined rules that gives a duration of forty-two (42) days to adjudicated on the matter from the first day of filing the petition.
The new rules are outlined below;
FILING OF PETITION
The first step that triggers the whole procedural process is when the Petitioner, after twenty-one (21) days of verdict pronouncement by the electoral commission. The lawyers, on behalf of the petitioner files the petition together with all affidavit documents at the court registry with all necessary payments made.
Respondents are then served with “WRIT OF SUMMONS’.
As per the rules, the petitioner, John Dramani Mahama has subsequently filed at the Supreme Court on behalf of his lawyers and the first and second respondent, in this case, the electoral commission and President Nana Addo Dankwah Akuffo-Addo have been served accordingly.
After the filing of the petition and respondents served notice, respondents are expected to file their response with all necessary documents within ten (10) days from the day they received the ”WRIT OF SUMMONS’
In this matter, the first respondent, the electoral commission and the second respondent, President Akuffo-Addo are expected to file their response in the coming days (latest by Friday) to pave way for the next stage.
Two days after “filing of answer” by the respondents, the Supreme Court Conducts a pre-trial hearing. This is the stage where the parties involved meet with the Judges to discuss the details of the trial which includes sharing documents that would be used to make their cases or defend themselves, request for documents and also file any new documents to support their cases. It is not clear at this stage if witness statements would be filed. It is not an open-court activity and so it is not expected to be covered by the media even though it has been suggest that CSOs that it should be covered by the media
It is expected that, two (2) days after the Electoral commission and President Akuffo-Addo files their response, this stage follows.
The hearing is expected to last six (6) days. This is the stage where the parties involved call on their primary witnesses to testify and be cross-examined by counsels of all the parties involved. It is the stage where various parties involved will be able render the cases of opponents weak or otherwise on the face of the law.
It is expected that, former President, John Dramani Mahama mounts the witness box to testify and be cross-examined by various counsels in the matter. Jean Mensah, Chairperson of the electoral commission is equally expected to be in the witness box to testify and respond to queries.
The President, Nana Addo Dankwah Akuffo-Addo, by constitutional provision, cannot be invited into the witness box and so someone must be nominated to represent him.
This is the final stage of the legal battle and it follows after six (6) days of hearing. The Supreme Court has to deliver judgement in not more than forty-two (42) days after the petition is filed. Approximately, the Supreme Court has about twenty-four (24) days after hearing to deliver the verdict.
It is worthy of note that, if the losing party is not satisfied after the Supreme Court verdict, the last legal option available is to opt for a review at the same Court.
The 2020 election petition hearing will be the second of of it’s kind in the history of Ghana and people eagerly await it’s outcome and it is an indication of the strength of Ghana’s democracy.
Meanwhile, the President-elect Nana Akuffo-Addo is expected to be sworn in on December 7, 2020 as by law, the verdict of the electoral commission still stands until the Supreme Court pronounces otherwise. Thus, there cannot be an injunction on the President-elect.