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Disqualified Ghanaian Candidate Seeks Ouster of Electoral Commission Chief

FILE - A sign for Ghana's Electoral Commission is seen at a polling station in Accra during a previous poll.
FILE - A sign for Ghana's Electoral Commission is seen at a polling station in Accra during a previous poll.

Hassan Ayariga, the twice disqualified presidential candidate of Ghana's opposition All People's Congress, is calling on the chairperson of the country's electoral commission to step down with immediate effect, before next month's general elections.

If chairperson Charlotte Osei does not resign, Ayariga said Ghana's presidential, legislative and local elections on December 7 will no longer be seen as transparent and credible.

Civil society groups in Ghana and other members of the electoral commission dismissed Ayariga's demands and defended Osei as someone who has implemented electoral laws without favoring any side.

The APC leader noted that Osei, who has held her position for less than a year, has faced legal challenges more than 15 times, with every one of her decisions being overturned in court.

The electoral commission announced the placement this week of seven candidates deemed qualified to contest the presidential election. Ayariga was not among them, having been disqualified for a second time for failing to meet the commission's requirements for registering his candidacy.

The opposition figure had filed a legal challenge against the electoral commission's original disqualification, and the court agreed, ordering the electoral body to reconsider his nominating papers. However, the commission then decided to disqualify Ayariga for a second time.

"This EC [electoral commission] boss has actually destroyed the credibility of the commission and the commissioners," Ayariga told VOA. "Now if we are going into an election with such a person what do you expect? Do you think we are going to have a peaceful election? Do you think other political parties would accept the results in good faith when [Osei] has demonstrated in several places and on several occasions that she is not credible and she cannot be trusted?"

Naming Charlotte Osei to head the government's electoral commission "is the worst mistake the president of the republic has done so far, and she must resign immediately," Ayariga said.

Ayariga predicted that any further rulings by Osei would be challenged in court and overturned.

"It tells you that this person has a problem," he added. "...Clearly it tells you that this person is not credible enough to make one single decision right. ... If you have [held] a position for less than a year and you have been to court more than 15 times and in all those times you have lost all those cases, what is the credibility?"

Civil society groups and officials of the electoral commission who defended Osei said the legal battles over some of her decisions "form part of the learning curve" in Ghana's relatively relatively young democracy. Constitutional rule was reintroduced in the West African nation in 1992.

"it's not about a learning process because Ghana is 22 and more years in democracy and 22 years cannot be a learning process now," Ayariga told VOA. "We've gone beyond the learning process. We have had five consecutive elections with a different EC boss; all was peaceful, and there were no problems."

The APC presidential candidate's critics say he has too great a personal animosity toward the electoral commission chairperson as a result of his recent disqualifications.

The critics also contend that Ayariga and his APC party failed to exercise due diligence in preparing his application to enter the presidential race, and thus are to blame themselves for his disqualification.

Ayariga disagreed, saying his nomination documents were accurately and appropriately filed. "I don't have any personal grudge against the electoral commissioner," he added. "...But if you don't do things right, I am a person who would not take it lightly when you go astray."