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Opinions of Friday, 15 December 2006

Columnist: Antwi, William

The NDC, Electoral Fraud and the Judicial Quotient

VINTAGE PROFESSOR MILLS!

WHEN the revered Prof Mills of NDC fame conceded the December 7, 2004 Presidential Election to the incumbent, His Excellency J. A. Kuffuor, it was a clear, unmistakable signal to all peace loving Ghanaians and our democratic partners the world over that the NDC, as a national political institution, was and still is committed to procedural democracy - the process of peacefully transferring political power from one party to the other. And, as Prof Mills continues to emphasize, at no point in time will the NDC resort to violence or “street justice” to achieve political power. Needless to state that the NDC’s unalloyed commitment to procedural democracy and to a larger extent substantive democracy is inextricably linked to the laudable notions of fair play, justice and truth which anchor our constitutional dispensation.

In one mighty sense, then, the NDC fervently believes that all electoral disputes including, but not limited to, electoral fraud should be resolved amicably by our courts and that at no point should the political process be held to ransom by political showboating and unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud. In the same vein, Prof Mills and the NDC fully expect our courts to rise up to the occasion should a credible case of electoral shenanigan or fraud be presented before them.

AROMA OF FRAUD!

Be that as it may, series of events both in the political and judicial arenas are gravely undermining the very foundation of our system of government. At the very center of this politico-judicial slugfest is a power struggle between those who truly believe in transparency, fair play and justice and those who treacherously pay lip service to these well-cherished principles. Well, the last time we checked the Electoral Commission had not published the full and complete results of the December 7, 2004 Presidential election although it had already executed the President Elect Instrument by way of Article 63(9) of the 1992 Constitution. Undoubtedly, intelligent minds keep wondering: If the Electoral Commissioner cannot openly declare the said election results, then, upon what figures did it declare President Kuffour the winner? What is so mysterious about these figures? Or, is this one of those fantastic cases where the Electoral Commission cooked the numbers to favor the President? The Electoral Commission’s knee-jerk defense that it had already executed the President Elect instrument clearly begs the fundamental issue of transparently publishing the full and complete results of the said election. By its dogged refusal to gazette the said results, is the Electoral Commission not undermining its corporate mission of advancing the course of our democracy and good governance? We strongly believe the Electoral Commission is giving our democracy a terribly bad name! Do you smell something fishy? I do.

THE JUDICIAL QUOTIENT!

Where do peace loving and patriotic citizens turn to in the face of such egregious abuse of power by a key institution of state such as the Electoral Commission? Isn’t it the judiciary branch of our government? And, didn’t the NDC show its total respect for the system when three of its members wisely called on the High Court to compel the Electoral Commission to respect the constitution by gazetting the results of the December 7, 2004 presidential election? As the last bastion against constitutional tyranny, should the judicial branch of government be timid and unresponsive to its sacred duties of expeditiously and judiciously disposing of such time-sensitive electoral cases? This writer is of the strong opinion that as men and women of high learning, integrity and fortitude, our justices should not be cowed by the presidency, parliament or public opinion in rendering their decisions. Neither should our justices trivialize their vital role of protecting the rights of the minority and unconnected in our society! Their duty is to give fair and accurate interpretation of the law and the evidence adduced before them and let the chips fall where they should without looking at the parties involved in a particular case. There is the absolute need for our justices to act consistently not only to protect the integrity of the judiciary but also those laws and institutions that hold our society together. Yes, they must breed and erect non-negotiable standards which command confidence and trust of the people. As an instrument of modernity and democracy, the judicial branch of government must stand firmly on the side of transparency, rule of law and justice.

To be brutally honest, we have a very serious problem with the judicial quotient of this all-important case that will go a long way to determine the acceptability or otherwise of future close elections in our dear country. In fact, democracy-minded Ghanaians are mesmerized by the High Court’s ostensible inability to bring meaning to this dispute by resolving the same. The court’s delay in handing down a decision in this legal matter is not reassuring and definitely a poor way of showcasing our democracy to the world. This is unsettling! Our main concern is that matters involving electoral disputes must be dealt with with judicious speed and precision to nib in the bud any accusation of a judicial cover-up especially in a situation where a sizable section of our population strongly believes that something fishy went on in tabulating and collating the results of the said election.

As an indispensable institution of state, the judiciary compromises its ability to discern political and legal reality if it allows such blatant and egregious act of constitutional malpractice to fallow. What is befuddling is that the High Court knows that when it comes to electoral disputes, time is of critical essence because the life time of both the presidency and parliament is constitutionally limited to four years. And, as a powerful reminder, the High Court should be the first to know that the longer the delay in judiciously completing this case, the longer the odds of establishing the truth and the deeper the distrust people have for our institutions of state! We dare say that by unnecessarily delaying this case, the High Court is aiding the Electoral Commission to choke off the life line of our democracy because there is practically no way we can build a stable society if we don’t have for ourselves a transparent electoral system devoid of perceived or real electoral fraud! A High Court that is that insensitive to this fundamental fact of our very existence as a nation is a disaster for our evolving democracy!

So we sensibly ask: Does it make any judicial sense for our courts to take almost two years ( and amazingly still counting) to decide such a simple electoral dispute that clearly calls into question the very legitimacy of this presidency? Does one have to be a constitutional prude to decide this simple issue of whether or not the Electoral Commission should publish the full and complete results of the December 7, 2004 presidential election and especially at a time when the Commission itself had already declared a winner? We strongly believe that the High Court is provoking future political conflicts in our dear country by its inability to resolve this electoral matter with judicial tact. How does the High Court expect aggrieved parties to resort to its services if it cannot resolve in a timely and judicious manner their well-articulated and well-placed grievances? As an instrument of modernity and democracy, the High Court must stand firmly on the side of transparency, fair play and justice. Which means that it must resolve this major electoral dispute forthwith to forestall the integrity and dignity of our electoral system. In fact, the confidence in the integrity of our Electoral Commission to fairly conduct and supervise public elections and referenda will continue to exacerbate in so far as this electoral dispute remains in our courts longer than appropriate.

We should all be riled up about this grave development because to sit down and do nothing in the face of the Electoral Commission’s pointless and reprehensible conduct and the High Court’s injudicious attitude toward this case is tantamount to accepting fraud with our eyes opened! That is a poisonous recipe for political instability. The problem with us as a nation is that, oftentimes, we get too comfortable with the lackadaisical and reprehensible conduct of people in positions of trust that we woefully fail to realize that such cavalier attitude invariably creates unstable political conditions.

It is super-eminent for the chief executive of the judiciary - our Chief Justice - to come up with a judicious formula for dealing swiftly and effectively with all electoral disputes without giving the ominous impression that his vital state enterprise is partisanly aligned with the ruling party, the presidency and for that matter the ruling class!

Let transparency reign!

We rest our case for now.

WILLIAM ANTWI (BAFO) A.K.A. OYOO BUSANGA
NEW YORK.


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