The Supreme Court has eventually bowed to calls by the public to hear the ongoing election petition in the open, thereby allowing it to be shown on live television.
This follows a decision yesterday by the Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood, to grant the wishes of many Ghanaians who want to see the proceedings of the election petition filed by three members of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), challenging the Electoral Commission’s declaration of President John Mahama as winner of the 2012 election.
The announcement came as a shock to lawyers of the respondents, President John Mahama, the Electoral Commission and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who had earlier resisted suggestions for live television coverage of the proceedings.
Consequently, the court has decided, with effect from today when the hearing of the petition resumes, to allow only the state broadcaster Ghana Television (GTV) to do a live coverage of its sittings over the case.
Other media houses including radio, television and newspaper, who may be interested in covering the proceedings, have therefore been asked to pick feeds from GTV, as the court room is ‘too small’.
The court was initially indecisive about whether or not to allow a live broadcast when a think-tank, Danquah Institute (DI), first made the proposal.
This latest decision is therefore believed to have been informed by the recent Kenyan experience in which the Supreme Court of that country allowed a live broadcast of its hearing of the election dispute between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta.
Interestingly, Justice Georgina Wood had been a consultant to the Kenyan Supreme Court who set out the guidelines for the hearing of the country’s presidential election petition.
At one of their sittings, the Kenyan Attorney General, Githu Muigai, had cause to state that “as my Lords are aware, as we speak here today the Supreme Court of Ghana is sitting on the election dispute relating to their election which was undertaken in December and they are slower than we are and I think we should take a little credit for the sort of enthusiasm that this court has brought to a timeous disposal of this matter.”
This was after petitioners in the case, Raila Odinga and his agents had complained that the ruling had delayed.
Analysts believe this could have partly informed the Chief Justice’s decision to allow live coverage of Ghana’s case in which three members of the opposition NPP are challenging the Electoral Commission’s declaration of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) presidential candidate in that election, John Dramani Mahama, as President.
Head of DI, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, who mooted the idea, therefore expressed excitement when the decision was taken yesterday.
Mr Otchere-Darko, who spoke on Accra-based Citi FM said, “I think it’s excellent news. It is good for our democracy, it is also good more importantly for the public to follow this case because this is not just a matter between two parties; it is a matter concerning 25 million Ghanaians.
“We have never seen any case of this magnitude ever in our courts. This is the first time and it’s important they allow the facts to inform people’s appreciation,” he stated whilst noting that “I am sure that the media will do a good job. It helps the country, the justices, it helps the supporters, the parties to better appreciate and accept the final decision of the court.”
President Files Affidavit
As at press time yesterday, legal teams of President Mahama and the NDC were busily filing their affidavits for the full trial, set for today, to commence, but there was no word from the EC.
A member of the party’s legal team, Victor Kojogah Adawudu told Joy FM that both the President’s and the NDC legal teams were already at the Supreme Court Registry to complete the filing process.
The NPP presidential candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (First petitioner), his running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia (Second petitioner) and the party’s Chairman, Jake Otanka Obetsebi-Lamptey (Third petitioner) had until Sunday April 7, 2013 to file their affidavit.
Once the petitioners have successfully filed their affidavit, the onus is on the defendants, President Mahama, the EC – the body that supervised the election – and the NDC, which later joined the petition, to file their version of events for definite hearing of the petition on April 16 , which they did yesterday.
When the court meets, it is going to look at two key issues: Whether or not there were constitutional/statutory violations, commissions, malpractices and irregularities in the conduct of the Presidential Election held on December 7 & 8, 2012 and whether or not the constitutional/statutory violations, commissions, malpractices and irregularities affected the results of the election.