Lawyers for parties in the petition challenging the legitimacy of President John Dramani Mahama are in deadlock on issues to be set out for determination by the Supreme Court.
The court, on March 14, 2013, gave the legal teams in the case seven days to sit and narrow issues for determination and indicate the areas they did not agree on for the court to resolve.
However, barely seven days after the court’s directive, lawyers for the petitioners, President Mahama, the Electoral Commission (EC) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) met, deliberated and hit a deadlock.
Following the standoff, the legal team for the petitioners has written to the registrar of the Supreme Court to indicate the outcome of the meeting and prayed the registry to set a date to enable the parties to appear before the court for resolution.
The letter, dated March 19, 2013, signed by Mr Akoto Ampaw of Akufo-Addo, Prempeh and Co. and addressed to the registrar of the Supreme Court, stated, “This is formally to notify the Supreme Court that, following the order of the court, counsel for all the parties met in an attempt at reaching an agreement on the memorandum of issues as set out in the applications for direction and further directions.
“We, however, regret to inform the court that with the exception of the relatively few number of issues agreed on, we were unable to reach a substantial agreement on the issues.”
“We would, accordingly, be grateful if a short date could be fixed for the parties to appear in court to take directions as to the issues and the mode of trial in order to expedite trial of the petition,” the letter continued, adding, “We will, at the hearing, give notice to the court with respect to the issues we managed to reach agreement on.”
The letter was copied to the lawyer for President Mahama, Mr Tony Lithur; counsel for the EC and counsel for the NDC, Mr Samuel Codjoe. Lawyers for parties in the case, as a sign of respect to the court, were tight-lipped on the issues they agreed and disagreed on.
They are, however, expected to announce their positions to the court when the registrar formally communicates a date to them to appear in court.
Stalemate issues in the court’s record
President Mahama is praying the court to decline the petitioners’ prayer for the court to allow parties in the case to adopt audio-visual aids in the presentation of evidence.
On the petitioners’ prayer that parties in the case be made to exchange documents to be relied on seven days before the trial, the President is pleading with the court to reject that request.
President Mahama is also praying the court to decline the petitioners’ suggestions that seven days before the trial, all parties must be made to present a list of witnesses and a brief summary of the nature and relevance of the testimony of each witness to enable the court to determine its probative value.
Agreed issues on record
President Mahama has, however, not opposed the petitioners’ suggestion that the hearing of the petition take two months.
The parties are also not opposed to the application on whether or not persons were allowed to vote without biometric verification.
The issues that are likely to be set out for trial include whether or not persons were allowed to vote without undergoing prior biometric verification and whether or not the votes cast exceeded the number of ballot papers issued to voters at polling stations during the polls in some polling stations.
The court will also decide whether or not to annul votes cast in 11,916 polling stations, but the EC has indicated that the petitioners have failed to fully comply with the court’s orders to supply it with further and better particulars.
The presidential candidate of the NPP in the December 2012 elections, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; his running mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, and the Chairman of the NPP, Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, filed the petition at the highest court of the land praying the court to annul votes cast in 11,916 polling stations due to what they termed “gross and widespread irregularities”.
They had, in a December 28, 2012 petition, called for the annulment of votes cast in 4,709 polling stations but amended their petition on February 9, 2013 after the court had granted them permission to do so and cited 11,916 polling stations as the number of polling stations where alleged irregularities were recorded.
The three had initially called for the cancellation of 1,342,845 valid votes cast during the election at 4,709 polling stations due to the alleged irregularities recorded during the elections but are now urging the Supreme Court to pronounce an additional 3,327,659 valid votes cast as invalid.
The Supreme Court, on February 7, 2013, granted the petitioners’ prayer of amendment and accordingly allowed the amendment.
President Mahama, who is the first respondent; the EC and the NDC, the second and third respondents, respectively, have filed their responses.
They have all refuted the petitioner’s allegations on the grounds that President Mahama won the elections legitimately in the full glare of the media, local and international election observers.
The NDC applied to join the petition on December 31, 2012 and was duly granted permission by a 6-3 majority decision of the Supreme Court on January 22, 2013.
On March 14, 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously threw out applications filed by 327 people who sought to join the petition.
In a unanimous decision, the nine-member panel held that the presence of the 327 applicants “was neither necessary nor convenient”, adding that their being allowed to join would defeat the purpose of the Supreme Court (Amendment) Rules 2012 (CI 74) which calls for an expeditious trial in an electoral petition.
The effect of the court’s decision is that the door has been shut on any person or group of persons who may harbour the intention of joining the petition.