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AEP Explainer: The Phenomenon if Filing Fees in Ghana

AEP Explainer: The Phenomenon of Filing Fees in Ghana. 

As part of Penplusbytes’ issue-based coverage of Ghana’s 2016 Elections, this explainer article provides insights and an in-depth explanation on the issue of filing fees, a recurring issue in Ghana’s political discourse.

 

Introduction

Elections are of utmost importance to every democracy. In all representative democracies, elections do not only provide the avenue for recruiting candidates for political office but, they offer the best opportunity for peaceful transfer of political power which is a fact Ghanaians can attest to because of a peaceful transfer of political power in the year 2000 and 2008.

In comparison to other democracies, the cost of elections is said to be low in Ghana (see table below) because elections have almost become a routine experience, the filing fees of GHC 50,000 ($12,505) and GHC 10,000 ($2,501) announced for the presidential and the parliamentary candidates respectively by the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana for the 2016 Elections have not been taken kindly by the political parties. The fees announced at an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting on 8th September, 2016 in Accra, are to be paid between September 29 and 30, 2016, the day the EC would receive nomination forms.
 




















Was the Hue and Cry a Mark of Hypocrisy?

Majority of the political parties, including the People’s National Convention (PNC) and the Convention People’s Party (CPP) condemned the fees, describing them as an attempt by the EC to sell the presidency and the legislature to the highest bidder. According to Mr Bernard Mornah, the Chairman of the People’s National Convention (PNC), “the price tag amounted to auctioning Ghana’s democracy”. However, the General Secretary of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia described as unnecessary, the hullabaloo that characterized the announcement of the filing fees by the EC.


According to him, the GHC50,000 (equivalent to $12,505) for presidential candidates and GHC10,000 (equivalent to $2,501) for parliamentary candidates are ‘peanuts’ compared to what was charged by political parties in their internal contests. In his view, some political parties took the same amount from their aspirants in their internal contest, so why can’t the EC take a similar an amount. For instance, the NPP during its primaries took GHC10,000 (equivalent to $2,501) from its parliamentary primaries. Constituencies
with sitting MPs paid an additional GHC20,000 (equivalent to $ 5,002) as development fees, while Presidential hopefuls paid GHC10,000 (equivalent to $2,501) as nomination fees and GHC75,000 (equivalent to $18,759) as filing fees. The NDC on the other hand charged what the EC is charging currently in their primaries.

 

Is High Filing Fee a Threat to the Survival of Smaller Parties?

In what seemed to be a threat, the flagbearer of the Convention Peoples’ Party (CPP), Ivor Kobina Greenstreet warned that the party would not be contesting the 2016 general elections if the EC fails to reduce the filing fees. However, Mr Yusif Alhassan Ayuba, the Deputy Public Relation Officer, stated the EC has no bad intention against the smaller parties, adding that any well-established political party should not find it difficult in raising the said amount.

The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), has urged political parties calling for a reduction in the filing fees for the 2016 election, to appeal to the EC by calling for an emergency IPAC meeting to discuss the issue.

Some filing fees charged by other African countries

Presidential

Guinea 400,000 GNF (2010, ca $55,000)

Sierra Leone 1 million Leones (2012, ca 225)

Benin 15,000,000 CFA francs

Parliamentary

Sierra Leone 100,000 Leones (2012, ca 25)

South Africa 180,000 Rand (2009, ca $20,000)

Benin 100,000 CFA francs

 

Constitutionality of the EC’s New Filing Fees

According to a legal luminary, Prof Kweku Asare, a Ghanaian Law professor based in the United States, the filing fees the EC is charging political parties and candidates for  the 7th December, 2016 elections is unconstitutional and an attempt to exclude smaller parties from the democratic process. In his view, the EC has no power under the Ghana constitution to impose a performance tax on candidates. “It is not part of your remit to discourage so-called ‘non-serious’ candidates any more than it is your remit to subsidize ‘serious candidates’. “In my mind, the constitutional right to be voted for cannot be fettered by a means test nor is it dependent on the probability of being a successful candidate”, he concluded. As he noted, the, the EC is violating sections of the constitution which give every Ghanaian the right to vote and be voted for without being financially restricted. Therefore, the EC should not be allowed to violate the constitution by imposing “performance tax” on candidates in the name of filing fees.

Per the Constitutional Instrument (CI) 75, presidential aspirants get a full refund if they get at least 29% of the votes cast in the presidential election while the parliamentary aspirants get full refund if they get at least 12.5% of the votes cast in the constituency. 

The People’s National Congress (PNC) has given the strongest indication yet of a Supreme Court action if the EC fails to review downwards its excessively high filing fees for the 2016 elections. Speaking on Citi FM Eye Witness News, General Secretary of the PNC, Atik Mohammed stated that the EC by this move is pushing the party into an arena where extra ordinary means ought to be employed to keep it afloat and this is counterproductive to deepening Ghana’s democracy.

 

The Implication of the Filing Fees To Democracy

Veteran Journalist, Kwesi Pratt Jnr and owner of the Insight is of the view that excessively high filing fees being charged by the EC for both presidential and parliamentary candidates for the 2016 elections if maintained, would sow seeds for corrupt activities. He believes that politicians, having spent such humongous amount would definitely find an illegitimate way of getting back their monies from the state. He therefore condemned the action of the EC as unacceptable. He wondered why the EC whose budget is fully taken care by the tax payer’s money would set the filing fees so high to rake in some money. The chairman of the PNC believes that the EC is merchandizing the electoral process in such an outrageous manner as would hamper free participation in the electoral process. He insisted that people must not be excluded from the process on the basis that they do not have money and that Ghana’s democracy cannot be at the behest of those who have the financial muscle to participate.

 

[This Explainer Article was made possible with funding from NED]

 

 

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