My written address on the NPP’s petition

Wed, 7 Aug 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

My good friends, I suppose by now, those of us who have access to the written addresses of the counsel for the NPP petitioners and the respondents, respectively, have scrutinized them to know how the tide will flow henceforth.

As we wait for the oral submissions by counsel on August 7 (Wednesday), I will submit my take on the petition for further interrogation. The more I reflect on issues, the more it occurs to me that what the NPP petitioners have been doing all this while is nothing but a calculated attempt to give our democracy a very bad name.

The insistence on pink sheet exhibits for fighting President Mahama, the Electoral Commission, and the NDC is an act in bad faith. Nowhere have the petitioners led evidence to show that what actually happened in the course of voting was characterized by irregularity or fraud by the respondents, which might be the basis for their challenging the outcome of Election 2012. And the pith of general elections is the balloting that takes place. If irregularities characterize voting, then, any challenge of the outcome is legitimate and supportable. Not in this case raised by the NPP petitioners.

Furthermore, by assuming that the general elections must be error-free, they have placed the issues in an angelic realm for fallible human beings to tackle, which is not backed by reality anywhere in the world. General elections everywhere are characterized by challenges but if no major fraudulent event happens in the course of voting, the results stand. Yet, these NPP petitioners see things differently because of their deep-seated desire to turn our democracy upside down—entering political office through the back-door!

No wonder, Dr. Bawumia had said several times in responding to Tsatsu Tsikata’s cross-examination that somebody mistakes should not affect another person’s Presidency. Turned the other way round, Justice Atuguba’s own wise crack that the Supreme Court would not visit the sins of the respondents’ counsel (late submission of his written address) on his client comes to mind.

And as I have argued all along—and been vindicated by revelations in the course of evidence presentation, confirmation, and refutation by the various counsel and witnesses—the EC faced challenges in conducting the elections.

It wasn’t anything strange to prompt the calling down of hellfire on the heads of the EC Chairman or President Mahama; neither was it a warrant for the over-extension of issues as has been done by the petitioners to the extent as to demand that the Supreme Court should nullify over 4 million votes of innocent and conscientious Ghanaian voters for their Akufo-Addo to realize his long-held ambition of becoming Ghana’s President.

Despite these challenges, all well-meaning observers could conclude that Election 2012 was a huge success and a far-reaching improvement on the procedures used for previous ones. All well-meaning observers except the NPP petitioners to whom the pink sheets matter more than the actual voting that took place and which resulted in votes being collected, collated, and released for us to know who won or who lost. The NPP petitioners saw only the shadow and not the reality itself!!

The challenges at Election 2012 clearly portrayed the weaknesses in our electoral system—whether the calibre of people employed to supervise the elections or the EC’s own strategies/procedures, or modus operandi for performing its constitutionally mandated functions. I will settle on this part as the most pronounced of the weaknesses in the electoral system, which automatically calls for electoral reforms, not a time-wasting fishing adventure in the dark chambers of the Supreme Court.

Yes, we need electoral reforms—which the EC itself has identified as a major requirement for our democracy to advance. Interestingly, the EC had begun reviewing the 2012 elections at various forums but couldn’t go further because of the petition. Reviewing the general elections has been the EC’s major post-election effort to determine what went right or wrong and to put in place measures to curtail any recurrence of the negative trends. It has been doing so since it held the first elections in 1992 to usher in the 4th Republic and is expected to continue far into the future for as long as our democracy survives.

Electoral reforms don’t need this kind of petition or prolonged court hearing to be effected. That is where my beef with the NPP petitioners and their benighted followers thickens. Could the EC not have been helped to reform the electoral process without this Supreme Court hearing?

Was it the Supreme Court that forced the EC to establish the Inter-Party Advisory Committee as a “political think-tank” to bring together the various party representatives to hob-nob on pertinent issues affecting partisan politics in the country? Or was it the Supreme Court that ordered that the EC should introduce the innovative mechanism of biometric verification to curtail electoral fraud (double registration and double voting, among others)?

So, what about the electoral situation couldn’t the EC have tackled to help our democracy grow without this hassle of a petition hearing at the Supreme Court? And for nearly 8 months now, being telecast at a huge cost to the country?

There must be a lot wrong with this petition-based approach. We have already proved to the petitioners that their main purpose is to twist arms and get themselves into political office through the back-door after being rejected by the electorate. It won’t happen because there is no basis in truth for it.

There is ample proof that the petitioners are not pursuing their cause based on evidence of irregularity before, during, and after balloting. They have not told us that voting was characterized by irregularities (ineligible people voting, stuffing or snatching of ballot boxes to corrupt results, hooliganism at the polling stations by machomen to prevent voters in favourable electoral areas from voting, etc.). In general elections, when voting goes on smoothly, nobody has any cause to doubt the outcome.

Although the petitioners initially made wild allegations that the EC colluded with President Mahama to perpetrate electoral fraud (e.g., padding of votes for President Mahama, swapping of Akufo-Addo’s votes for President Mahama, doctoring of results to favour President Mahama, passing the results through an Israeli company for doctoring before transmission to the EC Headquarters, etc.), they changed their minds even before the hearing of their petition began. They no longer insisted on fraud or stealing of Akufo-Addo’s votes.

Instead, they turned to clerical/transpositional errors on the pink sheets and insisted that they had a good case because “The evidence is in the pink sheets”. It is with this mentality that they have been arguing their case. They have not on any single occasion referred to any evidence pertaining to what exactly happened in the course of voting or counting of ballots to determine the victor (President Mahama) and the losers (Akufo-Addo and all the other Presidential Candidates in tow).

The NPP petitioners haven’t stated any single example of fraud at any polling station or the EC Headquarters. They haven’t provided any testimony from any of their polling agents, Presiding Officers, election monitors or themselves to confirm what they consider as irregularities or violations of statutory orders pertaining to the elections.

They have not told us that any of their own party’s polling agents or representatives at any of the 26,002 polling stations throughout the country protested against any irregularity that they either personally observed or reported to them. The party’s accredited polling agents signed the election declaration forms to indicate their acquiescence that the elections were without fault and the results a true reflection of the voters’ political will. Yet, Dr. Bawumia’s testimony discounted this truth and even impugned the integrity of those polling agents themselves. All because of the morbid desire to hinge their case on clerical errors in pink sheets.

The NPP petitioners never told us that any of their polling agents was privy to an irregularity at any of the polling stations (even where they also voted and monitored proceedings). Instead, they are insisting on the swan song sung by Dr. Bawumia (“You and I were not there”) and his stentorian cacophony that “I only used the data once in my analysis” in defence of their petition.

Thus far, the NPP petitioners haven’t even referred to the actual happenings in the balloting to fight their cause. Instead, they have produced volumes of pink sheet exhibits to say that they had enough water-tight evidence therein to win the case. Based on this assumption, they have produced a 175-page written address (a summary?) of their pink-sheet case, raising the big question: 175 pages of rally ground talk?

Clearly, this petition lacks what can win the day for the NPP. I am more than convinced that the Supreme Court judges will go beyond the level of pink sheets to consider the REAL issues that general elections entail or demand and make their decision therefrom. General elections go beyond pink sheets!

Mind you, I am not against any effort to challenge the outcome of general elections in the country. Far from that. But I am against the kind of challenge that the NPP people have put up just because I consider it as hollow and self-serving, not designed to ensure electoral reforms or sharpen the rough edges of our democracy. It’s just a matter of seeking to put a new wine in an old wine bottle.

The hot potatoes are to many for us to handle. We don’t need to waste all this time and resources listening to lamentations if, indeed, we are to brainstorm for electoral reforms. And democracies grow on the basis of electoral reforms, not self-serving wishful thinking as it is in the case of the NPP petitioners. Putting everything together, then, this petition is worthless and must be dismissed as inconsequential to what Ghana's democracy needs—electoral reforms, not the placing of Akufo-Addo in power "at all cost".

I am Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor; and I approve of this submission!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.