It's unconstitutional for chiefs to endorse political parties — Supreme Court

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has declared that the endorsement of presidential candidates and political parties by traditional leaders serves as the source of incumbency advantage.

Supreme Court

The practice, according to the apex court, had the tendency of tilting the electoral playing field during the conduct of elections which influenced the democratic governance of the country.

However, the court said the chiefs praising or lauding the policy of a candidate is a permissible endorsement.

Chiefs were supposed to be non-partisan as the constitution banned them from engaging in active party politics and also per the code of royal ethics, were not allowed to make divisive statements either in public or to the media which would show their party political leanings.

Justice Emmanuel Yonny Kulendi explained that this conclusion is "consistent with the role of a Chief as a champion and an advocate for the welfare and interests of their communities."


He said other statements where a Chief is heard to endorse the person of the candidate or his party by declaring their preferential support for the election of the candidate or his party or urging voters to vote for them are the kind of “taking sides” in a partisan political contest which the constitution disapproves of.

In a case filed by legal practitioner Elorm Kwame Gorni against the Attorney General, he urged the Supreme Court to interpret "active party politics" as used in Article 276(1) of the 1992 constitution, which provision states;

"A chief shall not take part in active party politics, and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to Parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin".

Gorni wanted the court to declare that certain chiefs who during the 2020 general elections "endorsed" either the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo or John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) were engaged in active party politics arguing that such an endorsement was a breach of the Constitution.


But the Attorney General was of the view that the case raises no issue requiring the interpretation of the court on Article 276(1) of the 1992 constitution.

The Attorney General stated that a chief's endorsement of a candidate for "elective political office without more cannot be said to constitute an engagement in active party politics."

But the Supreme Court said the phrase "active party politics" raises and presents an issue worth interpreting.

Justice Kulendi explained that it was important for "the exact contours or boundaries of what constitutes such participation" to be determined.

The seven-member panel was presided over by Justices Jones Dotse, and Justice Nene Amegatcher with Justices Prof Ashie Kotey, Gabriel Pwamang, Mariama Owusu, Lovelace Johnson, and Emmanuel Yonny Kulendi.


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