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Court cases could hamper Ghana's elections

November 7, 2016

Several political parties have sued Ghana's electoral commission after their candidates were excluded from this year's general elections. Now voters are worried that the elections could be delayed.

Ghana Wahlen Abstimmung Urne
Image: Getty Images

A handful of political parties are suing the country's election management body for disqualifying their would-be candidates from running for the presidency on December 7. The Electoral Commission of Ghana (ECG) made the decision after it detected errors in the nomination forms handed in by the candidates.

This legal action has raised fears that the elections might have to be postponed. Political analyst Kwesi Jonah thinks the commission should try to reach an out-of-court settlement with the concerned candidates: "Assuming that we are not able to hold elections on December 7 because of the court cases, what happens?" he asked. Jonah would like Ghana to maintain its reputation as a peaceful country with a tradition of free, fair and transparent elections.

Elections delay?

There are other cases pending in court. The ECG went to the Supreme Court to challenge a ruling faulting it for not giving aggrieved candidates enough time to correct the alleged errors on their application forms. Many fear that the sum of legal battles will disrupt the election calendar.

Präsident John Dramani Mahama nach Wahl Ghana
President John Dramani Mahama was elected to his first term of office in 2012.Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Georgina Theodora Wood, the country's chief justice, plays down these fears. But she warned: "We need to conduct our affairs in the nation's interest and in a just manner that will not disrupt our electoral or our constitutional calendar."

The ECG does not expect the court's actions to disrupt the polls. Chairperson Charlotte Osei announced that almost 90 percent of preparations for the elections have been completed. "You cannot only look at the case from the perspective of those whose nominations were not accepted. You also have to look at the rights of those who met the requirements within the nomination period. So we have to be very balanced and we have to follow the law," Osei said.

She added that the commission has started printing the parliamentary ballots to make up for some of the time already lost.

Optimism not shared by everyone

Despite official optimism, Ghanaian voters are doubtful. "Looking at the rate at which the cases are coming, I am beginning to worry about the process that the Electoral Commission has to put together before the elections," an Accra resident told DW. 

Ghana Chief Justice Georgina Wood
Ghana Chief Justice Georgina Wood plays down fears that the polls have to be delayed.Image: Getty Images/AFP/P. Utomi Ekpei

Another resident is worried about the way the cases are going on in court: "It won't surprise me if the court decides to postpone the elections to allow it to address all the cases against the Electoral Commission."

The ECG's disqualifications have left voters with only four presidential candidates to choose from. There are two favorites: President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress is running for a second and final term. His main rival is opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party. Their contest is expected to be very tight.