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Opinions of Saturday, 12 December 2020

Columnist: Samson Lardy Anyenini

Anyenini LegalLight: Fast track presidential election suits

Resolving election disputes speedily helps a great deal to douse tensions associated with disputed elections. There is good reason for this issue to engage our minds because the presidential election petition in 2013 took eight long months to resolve.

An otherwise simple family case took forty years to resolve, and Chief Justice Georgina Wood rightly described that as “a parody of justice”.

The NPP’s George Isaac Amoh challenged the validity of the 1996 parliamentary elections in the Ayawaso West-Wuogon constituency but by the time the case was finally resolved, his opponent, Rebecca Adotey had already served the full term.

He could not enter a parliament whose life had ended. His opponent, the wrong, illegitimate, illegal, unconstitutional person got all the benefits that come with being an MP. She, for four years, represented the constituency, not having been validly elected by the constituents to represent them.

The Constitution and other relevant laws require a citizen aggrieved by the outcome of a presidential or parliamentary election to file his /her petition or suit within twenty-one days from the date of declaration of the results. A suit against a parliamentary election goes to the High Court while that challenging the election of a president must go to the Supreme Court. In Kenya, the case must be filed within seven days of the declaration.

We had old rules or laws that gave specific timelines for dealing with a presidential election petition, but when it comes to the trial of the case, the law (C.I.74) only said the court must hear the petition expeditiously.

Well, the command for expeditious trial took us eight long months to resolve the suit challenging the election of John Mahama as president in the 2012 elections. In Kenya, such a dispute is resolved within fourteen days. Ghana has made new rules (C.I. 99) with strict timelines and a maximum of 42 days for the trial of a presidential election petition.

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