Alliances between the minority political parties, and the two leading ones; the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), have always played a major role in deciding, which of them wins the Presidential Election.
Dealing with the minority parties, therefore, requires lots political tactfulness and diplomacy, however, the NPP appears unperturbed in this period, when most of them appear badly injured, following the daring decision by the Electoral Commission (EC) to disqualify them for failing to meet the criteria set out in the Constitutional Instrument (CI 94) governing the conduct of the 2016 elections.
This could be seen in the utterances of the Minority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, and Lawyer O.B. Amoah, the NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Akuapem South.
Whilst, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, is overly delighted at the disqualification of the 13 political parties from the 2016 presidential elections, saying it was long overdue, Mr. Amoah, blamed the disqualified presidential aspirants and their parties for their respective disqualifications from the December 7 presidential race, saying they should have simply done due diligence on the persons, who endorsed their nomination forms, since all of them had access to the voter’s register to do the necessary checks.
Weighing in on the impact of their rejection, the Minority leader, said the prospect of having at least 17 presidential candidates on the ballot paper, was haunting. “Too many political parties, confuse the electorate,” he said on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, yesterday.
The EC, disqualified 13 presidential candidates, explaining that their nomination forms were not properly filled, and also they had failed to meet the criteria set out in the CI 94.
High-profile candidates, axed from the 2016 presidential elections included, a three-time minister, Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive Peoples’ Party (PPP), because the number of subscribers to his forms, did not meet the requirements of Regulation 7 (2) (b) of CI 94.
Besides, one of his subscribers endorsed the form with different signatures in both portions of the nomination form, raising questions as to the legitimacy of one or both signatures.
Former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, was also disqualified once again after she suffered a similar fate in 2012.
Meanwhile, the EC, is bracing up for avalanche of legal suits seeking to overturn the decision.
The disqualification will emphasize that the 2016 general elections is a two-horse race, between the governing NDC and the main opposition NPP, the CPP is not expected to upset the cart, analysts say.
Speaking on the disqualifications, Mr Bonsu, said the number of non-viable political parties is worrying. Too many of them exists on paper and have no significant influence on the results of general elections, he explained.
No political party outside the dominant two have managed to obtain more than 7percent of the presidential ballot since a return to democracy in 1992.
The fortunes of parties outside the top two have been declining with speed. The People’s National Convention garnered 6.7 percent in 1992, a result that was nearly halved by 1996.
The party got 3.0 percent in 1996 and 2.92 percent in 2000. The ceaseless slide into electoral oblivion continued in 2004 with the party obtaining 1.92 percent. It got 0.84 percent in 2008 and in 2012 it got the 0.22 percent.
The PNC, example represents the best showing of all the other 23 minor political parties that exist on the books of the EC .
Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, said the EC obtained approval from parliament to spend 1million cedis to go round the country to check if the parties meet the legal requirement to have offices in at least two-thirds of the districts in Ghana. But “they didn’t do that”, he expressed disappointment.
The Commission, failed to do this and repeated the approval for another 1 million cedis to do the exercise. The EC promised it weeded out non-viable parties by March 2016.
The commission caused alarm among minor parties after it announced in July that it would withdraw the license of non-functioning political parties by close of May 31, 2016.
The affected parties begged, criticized and urged dialogue not sanctions. The EC, appeared to have stayed its hands.
According to Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu despite their non-viability, these parties are always present at political party’s meetings with the EC where they often oppose the opposition NPP.
They are only “invited to IPAC just to dilute the discourse. I think that is just unfortunate”, he complained.
The NPP Suame MP, however, expressed fears that court suits to challenge the decision, could derail the process to choose the next set of political leaders. The EC, could be “leading us into a Nigerian situation where elections had to be postponed”.
The country, has barely 56 days to go for the general elections. By some constitutional requirements, elections in Ghana are fixed by law on December 7. Any other date beyond the December month, is illegal.
He said, the postponement of the 2016 general elections, would mean extending the life of parliament and the presidency. “…that may be most unfortunate and scary situation” the Minority leader said.
Meanwhile, Nana Konadu, and his running mate, Kojo Mensah Sosuh, have petitioned the EC Chairperson, Charlotte Osei, through private legal practitioner, Ace Ankomah, to reinstate them for errors in her nomination forms.
In explaining the NDP’s disqualification, the EC said that, “The Commission is unable to accept Mrs. Rawlings’ nomination because the number of subscribers to her forms did not meet the requirements of Regulation 7 (2) (b) of CI 94. One subscriber on page 89 of her nomination forms is not a validly registered voter, and illegally registered twice and so is on the Exclusion list of multiple voters. Details are Salifu Abdulai District: Nanumba South, Voter ID no: 6617004814 (28.3.2012), Voter ID no: 2126900022 (04.8.2014).”
But in a letter addressed to the EC Chair by Bentsi-Enchill Letsa & Ankomah chambers, they stated that their clients disagreed with the disqualification, since in their view, it was not grounded in law.
The lawyers say, they have instructions of their clients, to proceed to court, if the Commission, fails to reinstate them within 24-hours of receiving the letter.
In the PNC, it’s Director of Communications, Emmanuel Wilson, has blamed the party’s General Secretary, Atik Mohammed, for the disqualification of their flagbearer, Dr. Edward Nasigri Mahama, because “many subscribers did not properly sign the forms”, and that “thumbprints, signatures or marks were omitted all together.”
According to the EC, two subscribers to Dr. Mahama’s nominations, also subscribed for another presidential candidate, which is against the rules.
Dr. Wilson, speaking to Citi News, said the failure on the part of the General Secretary to pay attention to details resulted in the party’s disqualification.
“…The General Secretary did not do his work well. What this means is that he did not attach the seriousness that needed to be attached to the filling of the nomination…I’m sure that if we had gotten just a little bit of a competent General Secretary who was supposed to ensure that administrative work is done well, we would not have found ourselves in this mess.”
“If EC had disqualified us on any other grounds, this would have been a bit understandable and reasonable. But for EC to tell us that we did not file or fill our documents per the guidelines given us, it simply means that we did not take this training so seriously. It simply means that as a National political party, we decided not to go by the seriousness we have been attaching over the previous years to this election.”
Mr. Wilson added that, it will be an exercise in futility for the party to go to court over the decision.
“I can tell you on hindsight that, anybody who thinks that going to court is an option in this case, I think that person doesn’t really understand the issue. The issue is on administrative lapses and with administrative lapses, the EC regulations give clear indications as to the grounds based on which a candidate will be disqualified and we have fallen prey to it” he argued.
“We have failed because the General Secretary has failed the party. He could not attach the seriousness we have been attaching to the general elections this year.”
But Lawyer Amoah, also in an interview with Citi FM, insisted that the onus was on the parties to have simply done due diligence on the persons who endorsed their presidential nomination forms because all of them had access to the voter’s register to do the necessary checks.
“Every party by law is required to have access to the register,” he noted, but the caveat here is that the parties had to apply to get the register to make their checks like the NPP did.
In the NPP’s case in the Eastern Region, Mr. Amoah recounted that “we all assembled at one place, two per district, and then you produce your voter’s ID card, and there is somebody behind the computer who is cross checking to make sure that the voter ID card is what is on the EC the list.”
“We don’t just see anybody on the list and say that I need an endorsement, come and endorse it for me. Sometimes we take things for granted.”
Mr. Amoah also indicated that, the presidential aspirants may have had very little to with the preparation of nomination forms.
“For instance, for presidential candidates, they will not be carrying their forms everywhere. They will give it to us to do the work for them. You don’t expect Nana Akufo-Addo to carry his forms across country. The party people, party officers would have to ensure that it is done. So if there is any lapse somewhere, it can create a problem for all of us.”
On the threats of a legal action against the EC, O. B Amoah held the view that, the plaintiffs may hit a snag because the EC appears to have acted within the ambit of the law as it clearly spelled out the criteria for the candidates.
“For some of the situations, I doubt even if the courts will be able to give them any remedy. If you don’t qualify under the constitution, you don’t qualify under the constitution… So if you go and fill a form and the information you give shows that you don’t qualify under the constitution, it will be very difficult for the courts to reverse what the EC has done.”