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Partisan contests ramp up in the courts and parliament

The petition to rerun the elections is at a turning point and vetting starts for the ministerial nominees

This week, Tsatsu Tsikata, a leading member of the opposition National Democratic Congress's legal team, is due to cross-examine Jean Mensa, the chairwoman of the Electoral Commission (EC), at the Supreme Court panel hearing the petition calling for the cancellation of the December election results (AC Vol 62 No 2, Both sides go to court  & Vol 62 No 1, Skirt and blouse politics).

Tsikata, a former managing director of the national oil company as well as a veteran advocate, is known for his forensic courtroom questioning. Fireworks are expected as Mensa, also a veteran lawyer, is expected to brook no criticism of the Commission. 

At stake is Nana Akufo-Addo's first round victory in the elections with 51.3% of the vote. The NDC says neither its candidate John Mahama nor Akufo-Addo passed the 50% threshold in the 7 December poll and they must go into a second round. 

Tsikata is to make the case that the Commission's results for the presidential elections are not constitutionally valid because of the arithmetical discrepancies between what he says are three different sets of results released by the commission: the results released by Mensa in a public announcement at the Commission on 10 December; subsequent corrections to those results posted on the Commission's website; and the final results submitted by the Commission to the Supreme Court panel hearing the petition.

Lawyers in Accra think it highly unlikely that the seven-strong panel will order a rerun, as the courts have done in Kenya and Malawi, but it could sanction the Commission for its management of the results and handling of complaints.

As Tsikata and Mensa lock horns in the Supreme Court, parliament's appointment committee is due to start vetting Akufo-Addo's ministerial appointees on 10 February. It will be a more contested process than before as the committee's members are equally divided between Akufo-Addo's New Patriotic Party and the NDC, reflecting the post-election balance in parliament where the two parties have 137 MPs each.

Tempers frayed last week after new speaker Alvin Bagbin, of the NDC, criticised Akufo-Addo's failure to consult parliament about the composition of the Council of State, a senior advisory body in the government. Some MPs are expecting more executive actions by the President to circumvent opposition in parliament.

That will not make the vetting of appointments any easier for the NPP. NDC members of the appointments committee are expected to give particularly harsh scrutiny to Dominic Nitiwul (Defence), Matthew Opoku Prempeh (Energy), Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (Communications) and Ken Ofori-Atta (Finance). 

Questions to Ofori-Atta are likely to focus on his role in the attempt to float the Agyaba gold royalties company in London and Jersey, which has been put on hold following an investigation by the Special Independent Prosecutor Martin Amidu last year. After making his findings public, Amidu resigned in November after accusing Akufo-Addo of wanting him to be his 'poodle' (AC Vol 61 No 23, Anti-corruption boss 'no poodle').

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