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Electoral Commission: Justice beyond judicial review an act of grandiosity

Electoral Commission Sign Board Electoral Commission sign board . File photo.

Thu, 3 Nov 2016 Source: Osei, Nana Yaw

An Accra high court asked electoral commission’s (EC) boss to rescind her decision to disqualify Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom from contesting in the 2016 presidential election.

On Monday October 31, 2016, Madam Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei and her commissioners hinted of going to the Supreme Court with the aim of quashing the foregoing ruling of the high court. The stance of electoral commissioner reminds me of the famous dawn broadcast of Dr. K. A Busia in April 20, 1970, after the Supreme Court ruling: “No court could enforce any decision that sought to compel the government to employ or redeploy anyone.”

Is the electoral commissioner saying no court could compel the commission to reinstate any disqualified presidential candidate?

A former Supreme Court Judge of United States, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935) intimated that “the language of judicial decision is mainly the language of logic.

And the logical method and form flatter that longing for certainty and for repose which is in every human mind. But certainty is illusion and repose is not the destiny of man.”

Indeed, the electoral commissioner’s pursuit of legal certainty at the Supreme Court especially in about 35 days to presidential and legislative elections is not only deceptive but pernicious to Ghana’s burgeoning democracy. This article looks at the imperative need for the EC to shelve litigation at this critical moment of Ghana’s multi-party democracy.

In the first place, the neutrality of EC is compromised with the decision to engage in a protracted litigation with Dr. Nduom. There are three main arms of government in Ghana under the 1992 constitution. These are the legislature (parliament), executive (president and his ministers, and all state institutions that implement laws passed by the parliament) and the Judiciary (court).

In order to prevent legislative and executive arbitrariness and actions that are ultra vires (operating beyond one’s legal authority), the 1992 constitution gave a tool known as judicial review to the court. Judicial review is the power given to the court to declare the unconstitutional acts of legislature and executive as null and void.

The EC belongs to the executive organ of government practically. Dr. Paa Kwesi Ndoum and his team of attorneys utilized the principle of judicial review. The court through a writ of mandamus (court order entreating government official to correct an abuse of discretion) is compelling the EC to allow Dr. Ndoum to stand as a presidential candidate of the progressive people’s party (PPP) and run for 2016 election.

EC is a referee of the country’s election and it is not a duty of the EC to go to the Supreme Court for the sole purpose of overturning high court’s ruling.

Any Ghanaian, apart from EC can petition a superior court to invoke the writ of certiorari (an order a higher court issues in order to review the decision and proceedings in a lower court and determine whether there were any irregularities) by going to a superior court to quash the high court ruling in favor of Dr. Ndoum. The EC’s decision to go to Supreme Court means that the political neutrality of the institution is compromised.

Secondly, the role of the EC among other things is to conduct free and fair elections for Ghanaians but not to interpret electoral laws. The only body that is mandated by the constitution to interpret laws including electoral laws and prescribe punishment for those who breach both civil and criminal laws of the land is the judiciary. If someone is impotent (inability to give birth) and an irresponsible chief is complaining that someone has impregnated his wife, I don’t think it will be necessary for such an individual to bother himself.

Charlotte Osei must not grandiose initiatives to ensure that electoral litigations always favor her. As an English anthropologist, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) observed: “we all decry prejudice, yet are all prejudiced.” The EC must accept the high court’s ruling and concentrate on the coming elections. It is an open secret that the impact of Dr. Ndoum in the coming election is very inconsequential. Therefore, prolonging things because of EC’s inordinate and uncompromising zeal to cripple Ndoum’s presidential bid is needless. We need to preserve the peace in our country.

In psychotherapy, the term grandiosity refers to a hyperbolical (exaggerated) sense of individual’s own greatness, ability and significance. For example, an individual who is intoxicated with a drug or alcohol, out of grandiosity will say: “me I am stronger than everybody.” Also statement like: “me I can win all the pretty ladies in the whole city.” A police officer will say: “I am a police officer, nobody defeats me.” A hyper religious pastor will say: “I am more prophetic in this country.” EC’s chairperson will say in her mind for example, “I am a lawyer I know what the law says and nobody defeats me.” An extreme form of grandiosity is known in psychopathology as “delusion of grandeuor” or grandiose delusion (GD). I am convinced the EC’s decision to overturn the PPP flag bearer’s candidature is borne out of grandiose legality. A throttled grandiosity leads to either social or generalized anxiety disorder. Charlotte Osei must be careful of legal grandiosity as it might not inure to the benefit of the very citizens she is serving.

In sum, it is maximally significant that Madam Charlotte Osei relinquishes the decision to go to Supreme Court for at least two main aforementioned reasons. First, it compromises the political neutrality of EC. Secondly, EC is mandated to conduct elections but not to pursue electoral justice for Ghanaians. We as Ghanaians must be clear on who can contest for a president in future in order to relieve the EC of needless pressure. From my novice opinion, Charlotte Osei’s decision to quash Dr. Ndoum’s candidature at the Supreme Court is a clear example of what I term as legal grandiosity. God Bless Our Homeland Ghana. “I know that I am intelligent because I know that I know nothing.” (Socrates).

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Nana Yaw Osei (Padigo)

Columnist: Osei, Nana Yaw