Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Friday, October 28, 2016
Moves to have credible, free and fair elections on December 7 received a major boost yesterday when the Supreme Court directed the Electoral Commission (EC) to supply all contesting political parties and candidates with Constituency Collation Sheets after the polls.
The court ordered that the parties should be given copies of both the presidential and the parliamentary Collation Sheets - which hitherto were never given to the parties - and that the documents should be duly signed by the Returning Officers and the party agents.
The court also ordered that pink sheets at the polling stations should be signed and copies given to the agents.
Original C.I. 94
The EC had prepared the Public Elections Regulations 2016, C.I. 94 such that the commission was mandated to give only the Parliamentary Collation Sheets to the parties but not the Presidential, the most contentious. But the Supreme Court held that the presidential tally sheets should also be given out.
Until the landmark ruling yesterday, there was no provision in the C.I. 94 requiring the Returning Officer to sign the important Collation Sheets - both presidential and parliamentary - and there were no provisions for agents of the candidates or parties to sign the documents.
According to the plaintiff, Kwesi Nyame-Tease Eshun, a lawyer and former Director of Research in Parliament, because the law did not provide for the signatures of the Returning Officers at the Constituency Collation Centres and the candidates of the parties, any form could subsequently be changed and the commission’s officials could fill in what they like and send to Charlotte Osei, the EC boss for declaration.
The Supreme Court held that the signatures of the Presiding Officers and the agents are to authenticate those Collation Sheets.
The plaintiff had filed the suit against the EC and the Attorney General, pointing out the confusion, discrepancies and anomalies in the C.I. 94 and sought an order from the court to be corrected.
As a result, the seven-member panel of judges, presided over by Justice William Atuguba, after hearing the arguments, ordered the EC, the AG and lawyers for the plaintiff to sit together and straighten the anomalies and present the final draft within two hours for adoption by the court.
The EC had insisted that it was only the courts that could do the corrections and the court gave the orders for the parties to meet and work out the corrections and report back to the court for a definite ruling for it to become the basis for the conduct of the 2016 general election.
The net effect of the court’s order is that if the parties have copies of both the Collation Sheets and the Polling Station (pink sheets) results, they could easily check what is recorded for each polling station on the Collation Sheet and therefore, what is transferred to the EC headquarters for the presidential election is accurate.
Defective C.I. 94
The plaintiff listed all the textual and inaccurate references in the C.I. 94 and during the proceedings yesterday, Justice Atuguba said, “They are just drafting slips that could easily be corrected” before ordering the parties involved to make the corrections for the court to endorse it.
After about two hours of deliberations involving the EC, AG and the plaintiff’s lawyers led by Akoto Ampaw, the parties returned to the court with a well-prepared document to the satisfaction of the parties and for the adoption of the court.
In fact, Thaddeus Sory, counsel for the EC, told the court that he e-mailed the EC boss, Charlotte Osei, with the agreed corrected document for her approval.
The court has ordered that Regulation 3 (1) (k) of C.I. 94 should refer to Form One EL 1 A at Page 36 of the constitutional instrument headed, “Part II Certificate to be endorsed on writ” for parliamentary election and not a reference to the Parliamentary Election Collation Form (Form One EL 23 A) on Page 37 of C.I. 94.
Also Regulation 3 (1) (m) refers to Part II Certificate to be endorsed on the writ (Form One EL 1B) to be found at Page 39 of C.I. 94 headed “Part II Certificate to be endorsed on writ” and not a reference to Form One EL 23B.
They also adopted that the reference to the declaration of results form provided for in Regulation 42 (1) (d) which does not refer to any form in the schedule shall be understood to be a reference to Form One EL 1A for the parliamentary election and for the presidential, the declaration of the result form shall be understood to refer to Form One EL 1B.
“Provision shall be made on the Parliamentary Elections-Result Collation Form (Form One EL 23A) and on the Presidential Elections-Result Collation Form (Form One EL 23B) for the names and signatures of the Returning Officer at the constituency collation centre, the candidates or their representatives or counting agents.”
The court further held that “the Returning Officer, the candidate or their representative or the counting agents shall sign Form One EL 23A (for parliamentary) and Form One EL 23B (for presidential).
The court indicated, “The Returning Officer shall give each candidate or their representative or the counting agent a completed and signed copy of Form One EL 23A (for parliamentary) and Form One EL 23B (for presidential),” adding, “the Returning Officer at the collation centre shall apply the same procedure set out in Regulation 42 (1) for collating the polling stations results for the presidential election.”
The court adopted that “Regulation 42 (1) (e) requiring the returning officer to name the person elected shall not apply to the presidential election.”
Finally, “the ‘Constituency Collation Sheet’ in Regulation 49 (1) shall be understood to mean Parliamentary Elections-Result Collation Form (Form One EL 23A) and Presidential Elections-Result Collation Form (Form One EL 23B),” according to the court’s order.
Other justices on the panel were: Julius Ansah, Sophia Adinyira, Jones Victor Dotse, Kwasi Anin Yeboah, Paul Baffoe Bonnie and A.A. Benin.
Akoto Ampaw, Alex Quainoo and Kwaku Asirifi represented the plaintiff, while Samuel Tettey, Director of Electoral Services was in attendance with Mr. Sory for the EC.
Zainab Ayariga, Assistant State Attorney, represented the AG.