26.01.2024 Feature Article

Monetarization and Political Mafia in Ghanaian Politics are depleting the country's political talent

Monetarization and Political Mafia in Ghanaian Politics are depleting the country's political talent
26.01.2024 LISTEN

Election supervisors in Ghana are required to supervise elections impartially, even if the outcomes of the polls they supervise do not personally favor them. Voters also anticipate that elections will generate true winners. However, bribes given to election officials and delegates and more excellent divisiveness result in competent candidates losing or inept candidates winning a political party's primary election. Political parties have complicated candidate selection methods, but internal party primaries are the principal method by which political parties pick their presidential and parliamentary candidates.

Unfortunately, the framework of these internal competitions does not promote actual democracy since delegates in political parties overwhelmingly vote for candidates who can buy their way out; hence, financially disadvantaged candidates are constitutionally barred from running. This claim is based on the fact that to be elected as an MP or Presidential candidate on the platform of any political party in Ghana, candidates must apply to the designated constituency and national committees and be vetted by regional and national parties. If more than one candidate passes this stage, they are presented to the party's delegates for a conference vote. Because the number of delegates voting in these internal contests is so tiny, wealthy aspiring candidates can buy their delegates' support and loyalty at the expense of candidates who are poor but brilliant and can make an effective contribution to the development of their constituencies and the nation as a whole.

In reality, some wealthy aspirants go above and beyond to buy cars and television sets, pay school fees, and make extensive offerings at funerals and church harvests, making the path to Ghana's Parliament more difficult for impoverished but innovative applicants and more accessible for the highest bidder. Wealthy candidates are indifferent about how much money they will spend in the primary because they know that winning the primaries in the strongholds of a political party qualifies them for a seat in Parliament. Ghanaians must not lose sight of the fact that when money becomes the deciding factor in who becomes a political party representative in a country where the law does not require a university degree for such a contest, the chances of electing the wrong person who does not appreciate Pitkinian concepts of delegates or trustees in representation are high. That phenomenon acts as a 'technical knockout' for non-wealthy persons or those who are less affluent before entering the competition.

It also establishes a class structure in the nation. You need money to represent your people since you are not part of the upper class that can purchase people's thumbs to ride to Parliament. Lower-class candidates who demonstrate empathy for their people but need the means to buy people's thumbs have more difficulty representing them in district assemblies or going to Parliament. Because upper-class aspirants have an edge over lower-class aspirants, most of them are less concerned with the well-being of their constituents. All of the country's political parties are guilty of this, with the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Party being the biggest offenders.

The selection procedure creates a poor connection between elected officers and the people's interests. The representatives who spent money getting their constituents' mandate feel they have already paid the people and do not owe them. This reduces the quality of representation in Ghana's legislative body. Again, the Ghanaian method of choosing candidates for the legislative body deprives the nation of excellent political leaders who can shape and influence public opinion, assist in setting the tone, and make choices that will affect the country's future.

This inadequate selection procedure deprives the nation of excellent political leaders who can shape and influence public opinion, set the tone, and make choices that affect the country's destiny.

Many outstanding politicians who cannot accept this flawed selection process quit their parties to start their own political parties or run as independent candidates at the local and national levels. Mr. Alan Kyeremanten recently left the NPP to create the Butterfly movement. At the same time, Eunice Lasi, a previous NPP parliamentary candidate for the Sege constituency, resigned from the NPP to run as an independent candidate in the 2024 election. Obed Asamoah and others from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have done it previously, as have many others. The regrettable reality is that it is tough for such individuals to win elections and represent their people in Ghana. Please get me right. Some independent candidates have been fortunate to be elected to serve their constituents. It is a fact that only one out of every fifty persons have been lucky to be chosen to represent their people. This does not benefit our democracy, and in this respect, I would propose the following measures to strengthen the country's selection process for Presidential and parliamentary candidates.

Ghanaian administrations and political parties must first control the financing of presidential and parliamentary primaries in Ghana. To do this, government and political parties should reduce the money they charge aspirants for nomination forms and filing fees. Another option is to open up the selection process, particularly at the constituency level. A contestant cannot afford to buy votes when political parties employ an inclusive approach to choosing candidates by enabling all party members or the whole voter constituency to participate. The advantage is that it compels aspiring legislators to campaign on issues that benefit their constituents. It will also force elected officials to establish good ties with their constituents.

Aside from that, emphasis should be placed on the value of knowledge and understanding for voters to make better-informed choices. Money should not be a barrier to talented but not wealthy aspirants. The state should offer additional resources and support for public education campaigns, including, but not limited to, campaign funding restrictions. This would guarantee that money is not the decisive factor in elections but rather the electorate's and candidate's mutual knowledge and awareness of the community's needs. On this note, I want to remind Ghanaians that when politics becomes the province of the wealthy, it has a propensity to remove everybody except the rich from the country's decision-making process. The growing use of money to influence candidate selection is dangerous to Ghana's multiparty representative democracy and must be eliminated.

By Dr. Kwame Aduhene-Kwarteng (Castro).