The monetisation of the country’s politics has, for some time, become a worry to many citizens. Recently, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, also bemoaned the high level the practice has assumed, saying our “elections have been reduced to a farce, open auction, where the highest bidder wins”.
What concrete measures must be adopted to nip this canker in the bud, as many experts believe the practice presents a serious threat to our fledgling democracy?
Prof. Kobby Mensah, Lecturer, University of Ghana Business School
The increasing rate of competition in our elections has resulted in an unholy welcome of monetisation in Ghana. Monetisation in its barest form is when politicians dole out cash of any amount to prospective voters. Its highest form is during political party primaries to select presidential and parliamentary candidates.
At this level, the country has witnessed the supply of vehicles, huge sums of money, etc. to delegates.
Politicians use divide and share (DAS), where the delegate population is divided, for example, 60/40, with the higher percentage offered payment by a candidate to secure their vote. This issue has become one of the nation’s most pressing problems. How do we solve monetisation in elections?
Many have proposed state funding as a solution. They argue it will mean a cap on how much politicians spend. Whereas this could be a solution, I believe the politician will still go around the spending cap by getting cronies to spend, besides the amount they receive from the State.
I also believe the political class hasn’t shown exemplary leadership to warrant the tax sacrifices of the people. In my view, we must define the source of monetisation so we can target solutions. Is it voters demanding or the politicians giving unsolicited? We must also institute a regulatory framework that penalises any politician or voter that gives or takes, directly or indirectly, beyond a certain amount. I also advocate for making the political party primaries a universal one, amongst party members and sympathisers, in addition to the penalty framework. This means the number will be too large for any possible doling out of money.
Afua Kumi-Takyiwaa, Social Development Practitioner
The monetisation of politics in Ghana undermines the integrity of elections and poses a threat to the country’s fledgling democracy.
There is a need to educate the public on the negative impacts of money in politics and the importance of fair and transparent elections. Civic education programmes can help citizens understand their rights and responsibilities as voters, and how their choices can influence the democratic process. This can empower citizens to make informed decisions and resist the influence of money before, during and even after elections.
To enhance political transparency, political parties should be compelled to disclose their sources of funding, and expenses incurred during campaigns.
An independent body or agency can be established to enforce compliance with these regulations. This information should be easily accessible to the public to foster accountability and public scrutiny.
Another measure can be to strengthen the anti-corruption processes by investigating and prosecuting cases of political corruption, without bias or favouritism. Strict penalties for corruption-related offences must be enforced to deter potential wrongdoers.
Overall, addressing the monetisation of politics in Ghana requires a multi-faceted approach. Thus, it is crucial to engage all relevant political stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organisations, media and the general public, in discussions and collaborations to address the issue of monetisation in politics.
Enoch Randy Aikins, Researcher
As a start, Parliament should enact laws that place reasonable limits on campaign spending and contributions of parties and candidates.
This will ensure transparent, responsible and accountable campaign financing. Also, there is the need to limit the campaign season to stop the unending campaigns by the parties.
The Electoral Commission (EC) has also demonstrated over the years that it is unable to regulate the parties and enforce existing laws. As such, an independent constitutional body should be created to supervise and regulate the parties. This will enable the EC to focus on its election management duties.
Beyond the regulations, political parties can amend their constitution and expand their electoral college to allow all card-bearing party members to vote. This will help to minimise the extensive vote buying and selling. Meanwhile, the police and the special prosecutor’s office can start by enforcing the existing legislation on general bribing and treating in elections. Specifically, sections 33 and 34 of the Representation of the People Law, 1992, PNDC L284, and 23 and 24 of the Political Party Act 574 (2000) should be rigorously enforced.
The enforcement can be coupled with incentives for compliance and sanctions for non-compliance with the law. These proposals can go a long way in addressing this canker.
Dr Richard Fiadomor, Local Governance Expert
The monetisation of our elections is a very serious canker which must be uprooted with the fiercest force at our command as a people. Elections all over the world are about development and not commercial ventures, where necessarily you need to invest and get a return on your investments with a profit mentality.
This monetisation culture is extremely dangerous for our fledgling democracy because it has the high potential of completely throwing out competence through the window and replacing it with incompetent and half-fit people winning elections and governing the country. What I need the citizenry to know and understand is that if we allow people who have very deep pockets to “buy” our votes and subsequently win elections, they will consider themselves as investors and the elections as a business, and once they have invested in us (business) to get what they want, common sense just dictates that they equally get a return on their investments.
Once this becomes the norm, citizens would have just succeeded in mortgaging their developmental future to people I call election entrepreneurs, and for the period that they shall remain in office, undertaking developmental projects will now be at their discretion and convenience. This is because their focus will now be fixated on projects and programmes that will benefit them financially to recoup their investments at the expense of projects that will be of collateral benefit to the generality of the citizens but not financially rewarding to them.