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05.07.2003 General News

Government must fund political parties- Participants

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Ho, July 5, GNA- Participants at a public forum on funding of Political Parties at Ho on Friday, called on government to listen to the calls for public funding of political parties in the country. They noted that recommendations of previous public forums on the issue, though accepted by the previous government were not implemented because of the advantages of incumbency. The forum was organised by the Electoral Commission (EC) and sponsored by USAID and KAB Governance Consult as a nationwide exercise to collate public views on the issue.

The participants were of the view that the exploitation of incumbency for political party financing was detrimental to the growth of political parties and democratic culture among the populace. They said delays in establishing mechanisms for public financing of political parties would work to the advantage of bigger parties by virtue of their ability to raise funds to support their activities and win elections not necessarily because they possessed the ideas to solve the country's problems.

Mr Justice Paul Gyaesayor, Supervising High Court Judge in the Volta Region, said it was important that no conditions were created for a de facto one party state. He said it was incumbent on civil society to pursue the issue to a logical conclusion since financial constraints seemed to have placed limitations on vibrant party politicking.

Mr Prosper Tay, leading the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) delegates asserted that the party's domestication policy, which it canvassed during the last elections was acceptable to majority of Ghanaians but the party could not achieve electoral victory because it lacked resources.

Mr Paul Pawa, Consultant of Creativity Promotion, an NGO, said political parties required public funding but they should let the public know their financial positions, and how they were able to achieve such financial status. He said stringent requirements such as Political Parties, which polled a basic percentage of votes, should qualify for public funding, adding that new parties should not benefit from such a fund to avoid the emergence of several parties.

The Right Reverend Francis Lodonu, Catholic Bishop of Ho Diocese said accountability of political parties to the public even without public funding was obligatory because they have to prove their commitment to honesty and transparency as necessary conditions for being entrusted with the people's trust. " External funding is publicly known but cannot be proved", he said. He, therefore, suggested that foreign companies operating in the country should contribute to such a fund because they would benefit immensely when a peaceful and democratic atmosphere prevailed in the country.

Mr Kofi Attor Member of Parliament (MP) for Ho-Central suggested that there should be an equalising element in the disbursement of any future public funding mechanism for political parties as is the case with the District Assemblies. He said in addition to that other factors such as total votes won, number of MPs each party has in Parliament among others should be considered. Mr Attor said accountability of political parties to the public would be enhanced if they depended on the public purse to operate.

Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the EC, explained that public funding was not synonymous with state funding as is now the case with the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF). He said the State could also be a contributor to any future public funding arrangement for political parties. Mr Tenasu Gbedema of Rural Radio Forum was of the view that Political Parties did not need to be funded from any public or state funds. Mr Gbedema said such funds could be better applied to improve on agriculture, health and education. He wondered how the application of such public funding for political parties could be policed in the light of the shortcomings in the application of the DACF, HIPC and Poverty Reduction and Alleviation funds.

Togbega Gabusu VI, President of the Volta Region House of Chiefs said because political parties tended to keep the public in the dark about their internal arrangements, the public should be saved the burden of financing their activities, saying, "they have been doing their own thing". He said as such, Public Funding should be established to support the activities of the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), which was better placed than the Political Parties to educate the public on their civic and political rights and obligations. Togbega Gabusu said Political Parties tended to be driven by ethnic sentiments rather than as vehicles for constructive political organisations to merit public funding.

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