Electoral Commission Must Abolish the Unconscionable Presidential Candidates’ Filing Fees with Immediate Effect
Democracy should be the last thing to be left for highest bidders, and it is in this spirit that we the citizens from CEBSAR-AFRICA and ILAPI-GHANA, call on the Electoral Commission of Ghana, to immediately halt the implementation of the outrageous hundred thousand Ghana Cedis (100,000 GHC) filing fee being demanded from presidential hopefuls in the 2020 General Elections.
According to Chapter 8, Article 62 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, “a person shall not be qualified for election as the president of Ghana unless: (a) he/she is a citizen of Ghana by birth, (b) he/she has attained the age of forty years; and, (c) he/she is a person who is otherwise qualified to be elected a Member of Parliament, except that the disqualifications set out in paragraphs (c), (d), and (e) of clause (2) of article 94 of this Constitution shall not be removed, in respect of any such person, by a presidential pardon or by the lapse of time as provided for in clause (5) of that article.”
The constitution is clear on the requirements one must meet to lead this nation, and there should be no administrative scheme by the EC to deny any candidate of this right. Participatory democracy or participative democracy emphasizes the broad participation of constituents in the direction and operation of political systems and that includes the right to vote and the right to be voted for. It is our firm opinion that money should not be the basis to deny any citizen of these fundamental rights.
The Electoral Commission is a public institution funded by the tax payers’ money, and there should be no justification whatsoever for placing unnecessary financial burdens on any candidate all in the name of filing fees. We are of the strong conviction that, if this practice is not abolished, it will estop candidates with better ideas, policies and programs from putting themselves up to be voted for, and, this will be a critical dent on the proper functioning and credibility of our democracy. We are also of the opinion that such exorbitant filing fees breed unhealthy competitions in our politics and could provide a fertile avenue where winning candidates may want to find ways to recoup the filling fee investment. The consequence of such practices could lead to corruption.
According to the 2017 Ghana Statistical Service survey on poverty and inequality, as many as 6.8 million Ghanaians representing approximately 23 per cent of the population were captured as poor. Is the EC saying that, if these people believe the policies and programs of a candidate can alleviate their predicaments, they will be denied the right to choose that candidate just because the candidate may not be able to raise a whopping hundred thousand Ghana Cedis? We hope that the presidency is not for sale in this country and that it is solely reserved for a selected few and the rich.
Freedom of choice and having a voice are fundamental pillars of Ghana’s democracy. If these pillars are taken away from the people, there will be no democracy left. “Multipartism” is the corner stone of democracy and we should not try relegating others from participating in democratic pluralism. We call on the EC to allow the people to express their voices through the ballot box by choosing who they want to lead this nation and not how the EC wants the people to choose their leaders. We believe that monetization of democracy weakens the peoples’ power. In the words of essayist Henry Louis Mencken, “the cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy.” The exorbitant filing fee imposed on Presidential candidates by the EC certainly is clearly not democracy.
If this exorbitant filing fee was introduced to assess the candidates’ preparedness or resourcefulness, then we think there are better ways of going about it without money being the deciding factor. As advocates of a fair and just society, we are of the view that irrespective of one’s financial standings, everybody deserves the right to occupy the top echelon of political office, and this decision must be left to the electorates to make and not the EC.
We are, by this press release, proposing that, the EC abolish this practice of demanding filing fees from Presidential hopefuls and rather increase the number of registered voters who must subscribe to the candidature of each contestant during the elections to at least 82500. These subscribers must be drawn from various constituencies across the country. We think that this proposal has the dual benefits of establishing a fairer process to assess the readiness and seriousness of anybody who wishes to be the leader of this nation, and deepening the enviable democratic dispensation in Ghana.
Eric Owusu Darlison
Deputy Executive Director (CEBSAR-AFRICA)
Peter Bismark Kwofie
Executive Director (ILAPI-GHANA)
CC: The Electoral Commission of Ghana;
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