Ghana's former first lady and opposition National Democratic Party (NDP) presidential candidate Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings says she has what it takes to defeat incumbent President John Dramani Mahama of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the December 7 presidential poll.
The Electoral Commission (EC) disqualified Agyeman Rawlings and 11 other presidential candidates for failing to meet requirements before the September 30 deadline to file nomination documents.
The electoral body says the qualified candidates who would compete in the presidential vote include incumbent President Mahama, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Ivor Kobina Greenstreet of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and Jacob Osei Yeboah, an independent candidate.
In an interview with VOA, Agyeman Rawlings said she has the experience and the pedigree to win the elections. She blames the ruling party for masterminding her disqualification -- an accusation the NDC sharply rejects.
“This country, Ghana, needs leadership that cares for its citizens. A leadership that is bold in its fight against corruption, a leadership that has proven strength in putting Ghana and Ghanaians first and indeed I am running for president because I know that I am that leader and my track record is really acting in the best interest of my nation and is there for all to see. So, my work with the women to the youth to the various development projects, I have always done what is best for Ghana and for Ghanaians,” said Agyeman Rawlings.
A court in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, begins hearing a petition Tuesday from disqualified presidential candidates who are challenging the electoral commission decision that is preventing them from running.
Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings maintains the electoral commission failed to uphold the law, which she says requires the electoral body to notify her party of any possible errors in the nomination documents to be corrected ahead of the deadline date.
Citing provision CI 94 of electoral regulations, Agyeman Rawlings contends that the electoral commission failed to apply the law that requires it to notify the party of any problems in the party’s nomination documents.
“It is clear at this point that the electoral commission is being manipulated by the ruling party to fight its wars for them. This is because they know that if my name appears on the ballot paper, they can’t win simply, because they have lost the goodwill of the people of Ghana and have no moral authority to lead this nation anymore…The EC should have given our party and myself an opportunity by law for us to correct the said error. This they did not do,” said Agyeman Rawlings.
The regulation that Agyeman Rawlings cited says, "Whenever the nomination paper and the statutory declaration of a candidate are delivered and the deposit is paid in accordance with these regulations, the candidate shall be considered to stand nominated, unless proof is given to the satisfaction of the returning officer of the candidate’s death, withdrawal or disqualification." It also states that the returning officer shall inform the candidate’s nomination is invalid where (a) the particulars of the candidate or the persons subscribing to the nomination paper are not as required by law or (b) the nomination paper is not subscribed to as required by law, and shall give the candidate an opportunity to make amendments or any alteration necessary, within the stipulated nomination period.
Critics have challenged Agyeman Rawlings to provide proof of her accusations that the ruling NDC is to blame for her disqualification. The electoral commission rejected the accusation that it is doing the bidding of the NDC.
Eric Dzakpasu, spokesman for the electoral commission, told VOA that the electoral body is enforcing the country’s laws to the latter to ensure an equal playing field. He also said the electoral commission would not be distracted or deterred from carrying out its mandate to administer free fair and credible elections this December.
“They are not applying the law. When they were asked about the law, which is LI CI 94, some of the commissioners have said they have their own internal law which they are using. Which means that their internal regulations now supersedes the laws of Ghana? It cannot be so. Because my forms actually did meet the regulations so if they are going to do something against me, then they should make sure that what they are doing is lawful and does not do anything that goes against the laws of Ghana,” said Agyeman Rawlings.
“We are looking at the fact that the EC cannot disqualify me from being part of the voting system in Ghana. So definitely, I think that by the time we finish with this court case, [they] would have to put my name back on it and the NDP back on the form.”
Opponents say the former first lady should forget about her personal ambitions to seek to become president. They called on her to rather support Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings -- her daughter, who is seeking to be elected to parliament in one of the constituencies in the capital, Accra. They said since the former first lady has been around the Ghanaian presidency for at least 19 years, when her husband Jerry John Rawlings was the country’s head of state, she should just be an elder statesperson to be consulted for guidance rather than seek political power. They contend that Ghana is not a dynasty and that the burgeoning democracy isn’t as matured to allow the same family to continue to rule the country as if there are no other qualified citizens.
“The issue is it’s not how many years you have been there [near power], but that the value that you would bring to the Ghanaian leadership. My value that I would bring to the Ghanaian leadership is about the people, not the leader. As such, what I have done for Ghana is what will show and they would have to judge me on that directly,” said Agyeman Rawlings.