DE-MONETIZING ELECTORAL POLITICS, STRENGTHENING ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNANCE: WHICH WAY FORWARD FOR GHANA?
Ghana’s democracy is touted as a leading example in Africa. Since the inception of the Fourth Republic, the country has successfully organized seven presidential and parliamentary elections and alternated power between the two major political parties without any major hiccups. However, this democratic gain has not translated into the expected democratic values and development dividends. The emergence of the growth of use of money to negatively influence the nation’s electoral politics and governance is undermining multiparty representative democracy in the country. Since the 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections, the country has witnessed a significant rise in this negative trend and its derailing impact on the integrity of elections. Moreover, it threatens the credibility of election outcomes as the true reflection of the will of the people as well as the stability and sustainability of Ghana’s democracy.
In a 2017 survey of Parliamentarians in Ghana, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) found that it costs approximately $87, 000 (U.S) or about GHC 500,000 to get elected to Parliament (Asante and Kunnath,2018). This is equivalent to about two years’ salary of a sitting Member of Parliament (MP). Today, many aspirants would put the figure at not less than GHC 1 million or $200,000, with only a small fraction of this cost counting as legitimate campaign expenditure. In the August 2019 NDC parliamentary primary election, one candidate in the Madina constituency in Accra confessed that his victory cost him GHS 300,000.00. At the just ended NPP primaries in July 2020, there was evidence of vote buying, with some candidates alleged to have paid as much as GHC 3,000 per delegate as well as other gift items (Corruption Watch, 2020).
Problem: Monetization of Electoral Politics
In economic theory, monetization refers to the process of liquidating an asset into legal tender. Similarly, monetization in politics occurs when money becomes the legal tender for attaining political office. This refers to the excessive increase in the cost of contesting for political office in a multiparty democracy such that votes are not mobilised by superior proposals of transformation but rather by a candidate’s financial strength. It usually occurs when money and other material incentives are donated to parties, election candidates and voters in exchange for political influence and votes i.e. bribery and treating, a phenomenon popularly known in Ghana as vote buying.
In developed democracies, financing political parties and election candidates for power and influence is a more pronounced form of monetization. However, in emerging democracies like Ghana, financing for power and influence and vote buying are practiced side by side in equal measure. Monetization occurs at two main levels; the intra-party level during party primaries and inter-party level during general elections. Although, monetization of electoral politics and governance is a global phenomenon (Onah & Nwali, 2018), it has had far reaching ramifications on African politics than any other continent (Bryan and Baer, 2005).
Political parties are usually burdened with numerous competing expenditures such as the cost of rallies, congresses, transportation, training, salaries and allowances, rent, utilities and other operational expenses (International IDEA, 2006; IDEG, 2018). In order to raise sufficient resources and meet these expenditures, election candidates and political parties often resort to unconventional persons or entities to mobilize financial support (Strauss, 1994). This is attributed to the fact that most party members do not pay dues (Bagbin and Ahenkan, 2017; Bedi, 2017), and fundraising activities have also proven to be either inadequate or dangerous (International IDEA, 2006; Bagbin and Ahenkan, 2017).
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