Background and context
Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) has disqualified 12 presidential hopefuls for the upcoming 7th general elections of the Fourth Republic. The EC Chairperson, Charlotte Osei, who made the announcement at a press briefing in Accra said, the 12 disqualified failed to “meet the necessary requirements in filing their nomination forms”. The disqualification has generated huge public discussion in the past week. Not surprisingly, the disqualified presidential hopefuls have either threatened to, or filed suits at the Accra High Court. The first of such suits to be decided on is the application for judicial review filed by the disqualified founder – leader, and presidential candidate of the Progressive People’s Party, Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom.
According to the EC’s statement announcing its decision, “Prior to the close of nominations on the 29th and 30th September, candidates whose nomination forms had obvious errors and who submitted early enough, were called by the officers of the Commission and given the opportunity to correct obvious errors or omissions on their nomination forms. The Law permits such corrections only within the nomination period hence our earlier call on candidates to submit as early as possible.” According to Ghanaweb.com, the 12 presidential aspirants were “disqualified for alleged acts of fraud, negligence and irregularities discovered on their nomination forms”.
An online news portal myjoyonline.com reports that, the disqualification of Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) who contested for the same post in 2008 and 2012 “shocked” most Ghanaians. Even more shocking was the rejection of the flagbearer for the National Democratic Party (NDP), Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawling – the infamous former First Lady who suffered a similar fate in 2012. Other prominent casualties include Hassan Ayariga of All People’s Congress (APC) and the People’s National Convention’s (PNC) Dr. Edward Mahama. It is also worth noting that only three out of the 13 have never contested general elections in Ghana, raising issues about the preparations of persons seeking to be elected in to the highest office of the Republic.
Analysis- implications for democratic consolidation
This is not the first time Ghana’s electoral commission is disqualifying presidential aspirants, not the least in the Fourth Republic. What makes this particular instance interesting in the number of persons, and the experience they have acquired over the years in going through the same processes prior to their present disqualification. Moreover, the insinuation of some sections of public opinion in their favour, especially towards “known faces” to Ghanaian politics in the Fourth Republic has been that of the resources they have expended in warming up to the actual contest. Elections in Ghana, as in elsewhere require one to be resourceful – have the financial muscle to market one’s self.
Yet, it will be recalled that the election petition in 2012 largely bothered on administrative lapses partly on the part of the EC, and also to some extent the Commission’s interpretation of some clauses contained in the Legislative Instrument that governed the elections. The sum effect of the Supreme Court’s ruling was for the EC to tighten controls in the conduct of elections. Hence from an institutional perspective, this is to show that the EC is taking steps to ensure it gets things done right.
It is also important to note that if the legal actions linger for too long, it might affect the EC’s preparations and the election process in general. However, we should not be in a haste to slaughter the opportunity to further enhance the institutional credibility of the EC for the sake of time and public sentiments. It is however expected that the courts will not only expedite the adjudicating process, but also help bring the matter to a proper closure.
Nevertheless, it is surprising the affected parties are not calling for an emergency Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting to help address their concerns through the internal dispute resolution mechanism adopted by political parties and the EC for the past two decades. IPAC has over the years proven to be an avenue for parties to fruitfully discuss and come to a binding conclusion on teething issues without resorting to the Law Courts.
Overall, whatever the outcome of the legal actions may be, it will be a win for Ghana’s quest for democratic consolidation. On the part of the EC it will help build their institutional capacity and mechanism for conducting elections. To the political parties, presidential candidates – both qualified and disqualified, and those aspiring to contest in future, it will be a lesson well learnt and a caution for them to start putting in place the proper institutional structures according to the respective Laws governing political parties and elections in Ghana.