Opinions Wed, 5 Dec 2018

Pay to play disguised as filing fees

There are many reasons why any good court will strike down the GH?420,000 filing fee as unconstitutional.

First, political parties are not private clubs. This is a matter that is clear on the face of the Constitution and was dealt with in REPUBLIC v YEBBI & AVALIFO [1999-2000] 2 GLR 50

Second, political parties have some duties under the Constitution. For instance, they must practice internal democracy.

Third, the right to vote is linked to the right to vote for candidates of your preference. It becomes a sham if party bosses can use rules to give you a slate of their preferred candidates.

Fourth, poor people cannot be denied the right to ballot access in political parties. Being rich does not make you a good public servant any more than being poor makes you a bad public servant.

Fifth, you cannot welcome poor people to vote but prevent them from voting for one of their own.

Sixth, while political parties must take steps to limit access to frivolous candidates, they cannot do so in a way that disqualifies many qualified candidates.

Seventh, political parties cannot impose the cost of organizing elections on people who choose to run for positions. This cost, frankly, must be borne by the EC.

Eight, ballot access should not be limited to those with money or the ability to find money. People should be given alternative paths to show they are serious candidates. For instance, by showing they have significant support through signatures.

Ninth, just being a Ghanaian gives you a fundamental and entrenched right to participate fully and equally in the political space, either through a political party or anyway you deem fit. As a corollary to this, any citizen of voting age has the right to join a political party.

Tenth, political parties cannot discriminate against people based on their economic status on matters relating to who gets on their ballots.

We need to address this filing fee conundrum before it hits $500,000 in 2022. I propose that Parliament enact a law that caps primaries or general elections filing fees at no more than 10% of the annual salary of the office being sought or an endorsing petition signed by no less than 1% of the registered voters of the area for which the mandate is sought.

We have to think of rights, especially voting rights and ballot access broadly and seriously. Our politics must be inclusive rather than exclusive.

Don't let party bosses convince you that you need to pay to play. Pay to play is the root of all our corruption, quiet apart from its polycratic, kakistocratic and kleptocratic effects.
Columnist: Stephen Kwaku Asare, Professor