EC’s filing fees killing smaller parties and squashing Ghana’s democracy – Atsu Aryee

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A Senior Lecturer at the Department of Political Science, University of Ghana, Professor Joseph Atsu Aryee, says there is has to be a national debate on the relevance of charging political parties filing fees by the Electoral Commission.

The call comes in the wake of the 100% increment in filing fees for the presidential hopefuls in the upcoming general elections. On Tuesday, the EC made the announcement where it also pegged the fees for parliamentary candidates at 10,000 Ghana Cedis. The same figure charged in 2016

The 100% increment in fees for the presidential race has been met with mixed reactions, but mostly criticism from some political parties, observers and analysts who say the figure is exorbitant. Speaking on Starr FM’s Analyses, Prof. Atsu Aryee described the fee as a bane to the country’s growing democracy.

“What is the essence of filing fees to the EC? I need to understand that. If it is for administrative expenses of the EC, that is taken care of by article 64 of the 1992 constitution. And then of course  the parties themselves when they are engaging the EC, I am not sure whether they have raised the issue of filing fees. I have listened to the Deputy Chair of the EC, indicating that, they have not increased the parliamentary fees but they have increased the presidential filing fees. You see, we need to understand, what is the essence of a filing fee? Are you testing your popularity?” Prof. Aryee quizzed

He added “Because if you look at CI 127, it says that it’s a deposit. So when you have as a parliamentary candidate 10,000 Cedis, it’s a deposit. If you receive 12.5% of the valid votes cast, then it will be refunded to you. If it’s for presidential, if you got 25% of the valid vote cast, then your 100,000 Ghana Cedis will be refunded to you. Honestly I don’t buy this idea. Actually when we follow it, it means that for the presidential elections it is only the NDC and the NPP   who will have their refund. But the minority parties, smaller parties, the independent candidates there is no way they can secure 25% of the valid vote cast. So with the EC’s fixing of the fees, I think that we need to have a national debate over it. Is it within the constitution? You see, even if you are supposed to charge it under a certain law, you must also involve the stakeholders. You must have gone to parliament and all that.”

According to Professor Atsu Aryee the trend badly affects efforts to rid the country’s politics of monetization.

“I am really a little bit uncomfortable with this charging of fees. It’s killing our democracy. It’s killing the smaller parties and then of course it’s increasing the monetization of politics. You see when it comes politics and money, I am always in a dilemma because, money actually oils politics. But in other countries where they even have control, France, Italy and Israel people are still not following the rules and regulations. So some of the past leaders have been prosecuted. So I think that we should have a national debate or the parties should engage the EC over the filing fees. I don’t understand it (relevance of the filing fees) honestly.” Professor Aryee noted.

Meanwhile, the Progressive People’s Party, PPP, says the explanation provided by the EC for the increment does not make sense.

“I can tell you that the value of 50,000 Cedis is as important and relevant in 2016 as it is today. Because the value of  our economy has decreased. If you have 50,000 Cedis today in Ghana, do you know what you  can do with that money? And so that analysis is neither here nor there. The economy has not improved for him (Dr. Bossman Asare, Deputy EC Chair) to say that 50,000 Ghana Cedis in 2016 is valueless in 2020. Go to the market today with 50,000 Ghana Cedis, give 50,000 Cedis to people and they will tell you what they can do with that. And so I think that the 100,000 Ghana Cedis the EC is charging does make sense, especially because the economy is struggling” National Secretary of the PPP Paa Kow Ackon noted.

According to Mr. Ackon the fee increment was part of a grand ploy to reduce the country’s politics to a duopoly.

“The government has even recognized the difficulties people are going through. For which reason it recently went to the IMF for support. To the extend that government today is supporting homes by ensuring that water and electricity bills are paid for by this same government. People have lost their jobs. Businesses have collapsed. Prior to this we all heard about how some businesses were collapsed by government and COVID has added to what is currently a problem. So if you have an economy like this, 100,000 Cedis, who are you going to ask for support? …And so I think what the EC is charging today should not be the focus. Clearly it tells you there is an agenda to turn our country into a duopoly and that is dangerous”.

Source: Starr FM