No Gross Irregularities

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC) Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, yesterday mounted the witness box at the Supreme Court and tried to disprove the petitioners’ allegation of gross and widespread irregularities, in the 2012 Presidential Election.

It was the first time an Election Administrator ever appeared in court to answer to questions concerning the process, procedures and conduct of any election in the country.

Before his evidence-in-chief, there was an attempt by the petitioners to object to the legal team of the EC’s decision to use Dr. Afari-Gyan as its witness in the case.

Philip Addison, counsel for the petitioners, had told the nine-member panel of judges, presided over by Justice William Atuguba, that Dr. Afari-Gyan had not sworn to the affidavits and pleadings of the EC (third respondent) and questioned the rationale behind selecting him to testify.

He argued that Amadu Sulley, the Deputy Chairman in-charge of Finance and Administration and Kwadwo Sarfo Kantanka, former Deputy Chairman in-charge of Operations, both of the EC rather swore to the affidavits and since they were in court, they should be allowed to mount the witness box.

Mr. Addison submitted that the evidence of Mr. Sulley amounted to evidence-in-chief and not Dr. Afari-Gyan’s.
He contended that Sarfo Kantanka rather swore to an interlocutory application and had been presumed as representing the second respondent.

Responding, James Quarshie-Idun, counsel for the E.C., prayed the court to consider the three representatives of the Commission as witnesses, and parties to the case.

The court ruled that Dr. Afari-Gyan represented the EC and is a party in the hearing as the Returning Officer of the 2012 general election, and could therefore be allowed to give oral evidence to the court.
The court explained that in its earlier ruling on April 2, it ordered that witnesses of the parties in the hearing could give oral evidence, at the discretion of the court.

The court overruled the objection for counsel for the EC to lead his client in evidence. Dr. Afari-Djan, was well composed and confident in the box and proved that he had vast experience in the electoral processes of the country, since 1992 and had also supervised elections in some parts of  Africa, Europe and Asia.

Witness said he declared President John Mahama  the winner of the 2012 presidential election because there was no protest from polling agents.

He stressed the fact that the biometric verification system of voting used in the elections was able to track multiple voting and also gave more accurate data collection before, during and after the elections.

Dr. Afari-Gyan conceded that the biometric verification devise had such challenges during the election as equipment failure, human element and climatic conditions due to its multi-component set up.

“Eventually, we were able to overcome the challenges towards a successful registration exercise.”
Witness said that there was no instance where those whose finger prints could not be captured had their names deleted from the voters register.

He explained that those whose fingers could not be captured by the biometric devise and those who did not have fingers due to traumatic conditions were registered through Face Only Verification (FOV).

Mr Addison objected to the mode of questions and answers by counsel and Witness, since they were not alluding to the third respondent’s affidavits and pleadings, but rather lecturing the court, and counsel decided to rephrase his questions, but that also was not acceptable to Mr. Addison.

Justice Atuguba asked the witness to answer the questions precisely. Witness disagreed with the petitioners that elections were held in Ghana’s missions abroad, explaining that though they were registered abroad, they were asked to come to Ghana to vote.

He said 14,031,680 eligible voters were captured in the voters register, out of whom 70,951 were FOV, and not 3,196 as being alleged by the petitioners.

Dr. Afari-Gyan indicated that the tracking of printing of ballot papers was not a secret, since all the political parties had their representatives at the printing houses.

By a 6-3 majority decision, the court overruled an objection by counsel for the petitioners alluding that some of the evidence-in-chief of the witness had not been pleaded.

Dr. Afari-Gyan pointed out that party agents risked being cited for perjury, if they failed to work in accordance with the law, and that most of the political leanings were unknown to the EC during recruitment of election officers to supervise the election.

He said it was unfortunate for the petitioners to describe polling agents as exalted observers, since they formed part of the electoral process and were trusted with the responsibility to ensure transparency at the polling stations.
Witness said portions of pink sheets should be filled before voting commenced  since it was required by law, or be termed an irregularity.

Dr. Afari-Gyan insisted that transpositional errors never occurred during the 2012 general election, due to the vigilance of polling agents.

Witness said he did not grant the request of the petitioners for auditing  of the biometric verification results and the ordering of recollation of the results, of 26,002 polling stations, as that could not be done immediately, but would take months and also there were no protests from the polling agents.

Dr. Afari-Gyan indicated that using seven pink sheets to determine discrepancies at those polling stations could not warrant auditing of the biometric verification results and ordering the recollation of the results, adding that since the petitioners could not substantiate their allegations, he went ahead to announce the results and declared President Mahama, winner.

Mr. Addison objected to the second respondent tendering a document which it had filed on February 27, 2013 in response to their second amendment petition.

He argued that on April 3, 2013 the second respondent sought leave to amend a second amendment petition and had not filed any document attached to their amended answer, and that they could not rely on it when the court had earlier ruled on the matter.

Responding, Mr. Quarshie-Idun submitted that it was the document the second petitioner relied on in his affidavit.
A member of the panel of Judges, Justice Jones Dotse, asked counsel whether it was a particular document or pink sheets and that if they were pink sheets, they were a lot in evidence.Mr. Quarshie-Idun withdrew the document.
Hearing continues on Monday, June 3.

The petitioners, the presidential candidate for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the December 2012 elections, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, his running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, and the chairman of the NPP, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, are challenging the result of the 2012 presidential elections in which the Electoral Commission (EC) declared President John Mahama the winner.

They are contending that ‘gross and widespread irregularities’ took place in the 11,916 polling stations.
The petitioners are, therefore, calling for the annulment of 4,670,504 votes cast in the 11,916 polling stations.

But the respondents, President Mahama, the Electoral Commission (EC) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) the first, second and third respectively, have denied any wrongdoing, and are of the view that the polls were free, fair and transparent and for that reason, the results were credible and accurate.

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