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Opinions Sun, 24 Feb 2019

'Incentives' for electorates constitute votes buying

The 1992 Constitution of Ghana is emphatic about what vote buying is and any attempt to justify same must be taken through the constitutional mill.

The leader of the John Mahama campaign team, Daniel Ohene Agyekum, responding to allegations of vote buying during the National Democratic Congress (NDC) presidential primaries said, “we want to ensure that those who want to come out and vote are well taken care of. Some people are travelling from a long distance to come and vote so we have to take care of them. If we want them to come, it is only natural that you facilitate their coming to do so. We are offering them a little bit of incentive in terms of transportation, a little food and drinks.”

Under the 1992 Constitution of the Republic vote buying is an offence under Section 33 of the Representation of People Law, 1992.

Section 33 of the law indicates a person commits the offence of bribery;

(a)If he directly or indirectly acts through another person –

(i) Gives money or obtains an office for a voter in order to induce the voter to vote or refrain from voting.

The meaning of 'office' in this instance is a 'service' or any form of 'kindness'.

Service here indicates, 'an act of being of assistance to someone.'

Juxtaposing busing of delegates to polling centres and giving them food and drinks to the law shows a clear breach and contravention of the constitution.

But this transgression has been a common phenomenon so far as elections are concerned in Ghana.

Before the 2016 General elections, the John Mahama administration was scathingly criticised for abusing incumbency by 'distributing outboard motors and head pans procured with state funds to fisherfolk'.

The first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo 'trended on social media distributing some items to prospective voters'.

All of these acts contravene our laws and pose dire consequences on how free and fair our elections are.

So long as the will of the people is susceptible to manipulation through this practice, there must be a proper defence to guard our democracy by the enforcement of the law.

A huge onus is on the National Commission for Civic Education and Civil Society to stage a resilient campaign to enlighten voters to shun “financial or material rewards before they vote for a particular candidate or party as this amounts to selling one’s conscience, a situation that has a serious implication for the ability for citizens’ demand for accountability.”

Columnist: Kofi Boateng
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