The decision by the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to peg the filing fee for its flagbearer aspirants at GHC400,000 has elicited sharp reactions from some of the aspirants.
They raised eyebrows over the fee, suggesting it was counter-productive and a disservice to a centre-left party.
At a news conference in Accra on Thursday to outline the road map for the election of a presidential candidate for the party for the 2020 elections, the General Secretary of the party, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, said female aspirants and persons with disabilities (PWDs) would, however, have a reduction in the filing fee.
While female aspirants will pay GHC200,000, PWDs will pay GHC150,000.
The cost of the forms itself for an aspirant is GHC20,000 and all fees paid are non-refundable.
Mr Asiedu Nketia said nomination would be opened for two working days of December 3 and 4, 2018 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
He added that nomination forms could be obtained from the general secretary or an officer appointed by him, and that desirous and eligible contestants were expected to file their nominations between December 13 and 14, 2018.
He said the date for the election of the flag bearer had been set for January 19, 2019, to take place in all the 275 constituencies.
The national headquarters of the party would constitute an additional voting centre for all delegates from the external branches of the party, he said.
Over 260,000 delegates are expected to cast their ballot in the primary.
Reacting to the guidelines and fees in an interview with the Daily Graphic, Mr Ekwow Spio-Garbrah was of the view that going by the Disability Act, “many of us are disabled but are not aware. Everybody is disabled in one way or form”.
He added that “speaking for myself, I am visually impaired and totally fall into that category”.
The whole approval of the guidelines was misguided, he said, and pointed out that the NDC, as a social democratic party, was expected to ensure fairness for all.
The NDC, in coming out with a filing fee for its flag bearer aspirants, he said, ought to have taken into consideration how many of the aspirants would be able to prove that they had that kind of money.
“We knew how much, until recently, ministers of state and MPs were receiving by way of remuneration. After filing, I would expect all aspirants to show their tax returns as proof of legitimacy,” he pointed out.
He indicated that he had advertised publicly in the Daily Graphic and another newspaper for support from all and sundry for his campaign.
He was of the view that the NDC ought to think about what the Ghanaian electorate would think of the party and inform them whether to vote for the NDC or not.
“We must not behave as if we live in isolation. We do not even know what went into this. It is out of line for a social democratic party,” he said, and asked how much the other political parties charged in previous congresses, conferences and primaries.
To suddenly jump to that figure, he stressed, was baffling and the logic ought to make sense to the Ghanaian electorate.
For his part, Mr Alban Bagbin stated that once the decision was not affecting him as an individual but a collective, there was the need for a collective position on the filing fee that would satisfy the collective interest.
The filing fee, he noted, was not in tune with the values and principles of a social democratic party which the NDC stood for.
His Spokesperson Mr Fritz Baffour, also expressed worry and said they were very disturbed that a pro-poor party such as the NDC was now behaving like a very right-wing capitalist party.
Another aspirant, Mr Elikem Agbemava, a legal practitioner, admitted that there was cost involved in the organisation of political parties.
He, however, pointed out that democratically and looking at the purpose of political parties to serve the need and interest of the larger society, the NDC should be mindful of some of the conditions it set for the presidential primary.
“We could balance the logistical need of the party and make sure we are all part of the process; if we bid too high, we may end up segregating,” he opined.
Nevertheless, he said “once we are all out to win the primary, we will do what we have to do in order to take part in the process”, adding that in the midst of things, someone must rise up like what Obama did to win the US presidential election.
When reached by the Daily Graphic, Mr Richard Quashigah, the Spokesperson for Professor Joshua Alabi, said as far as the Prof. Alabi Campaign was concerned, it was unstoppable, and that come rain or shine, Prof. Alabi was contesting, adding that the primary would be a contest similar to that between David and Goliath.
For him, Prof. Alabi’s campaign was bubbling with so much energy that had caught on with the delegates.
Nonetheless, he said, the Alabi team was of the view that the filing fee was on the high side, stressing that “it was un-NDC, which is a social democratic party. The filing fee does not gel with NDC philosophy. This is because it can deter very competent and capable persons who can lead the party and the country from emerging in the race”.
It was his considered opinion that monetisation of politics was a stranger to the NDC and that the party must not be seen to be deepening an unpleasant activity that every Ghanaian frowned upon — ‘moneycracy’.
“To be an effective leader is not synonymous with being a good fundraiser. The two are poles apart,” he maintained.
From the camp of former President John Dramani Mahama, his Spokesperson, Mr James Agyenim Boateng, said the former President had no views on the guidelines except to comply.
A former Metropolitan Chief Executive for Kumasi, Mr Kojo Bonsu, who is also in the race, said he needed time to reflect on the guidelines and would respond appropriately.
“For now, I am reserving my comments for later reactions,” he said.
The decision on the presidential primary comes barely two weeks after the party had elected its national executives for the next four years.
Per the statutes of the NDC, the election of a flag bearer was to have taken place by December 7, 2018, 24 months before the 2020 general election.
However, the delegates conference was postponed and held on November 17, 2018, a change that subsequently affected the date for the election of the flag bearer.
Speaking to the issue of qualification at the press conference, Mr Asiedu Nketia said an aspirant would not be qualified to contest for the position of presidential candidate unless the person met the requirement as provided under articles 62 and 94 of the 1992 Constitution.
An aspirant, he said, must be a registered member of the party for at least 10 years and there must be evidence of the person’s contribution to the party over the period.
For the avoidance of doubt, he added, that evidence of contribution had to be produced and that the person must be a paid-up member.
Going further, he said a seven-member vetting committee would be established to vet the suitability and eligibility of the aspirant, adding that vetting would be conducted at the party’s headquarters between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. from December 17 to 18, 2018.
The vetting committee, he said, would communicate its conclusions to each aspirant at the end of the vetting and copy the Functional Executive Committee (FEC) of the party.
Mr Asiedu Nketia said if an aspirant was dissatisfied with the decision of the vetting committee, he would have the right of appeal to the Appeals Committee of the party within three days of the vetting and the decision of the Appeals Committee would be final.
He said if at the close of nominations only one person had filed his nomination as the party’s presidential candidate, that person would be subjected to a vote, out of which the person must obtain more than 50 per cent of the valid votes cast, but where two persons filed their nominations, the person who received the greater number of votes would be declared elected as the party’s presidential candidate.
Also, he said, where the votes were equal at any ballot between the two leading candidates, another ballot would be held and that at any ballot between more than two persons, the candidate who received the greatest number of votes would be declared elected if that person received a majority of 50 per cent plus one of the votes cast.
But if no candidate received that majority, the names of candidates who received the least number of votes would be withdrawn and that would be followed by a run-off between the first two contestants and that the contestant with a simple majority would be declared the party’s presidential candidate.
Mr Asiedu Nketia also announced that a 17-member Electoral Committee would be constituted by the National Executive Committee (NEC) to oversee all the necessary administrative requirements and duties relating to the election and the committee would liaise with the Electoral Commission (EC) for the conduct of the election.
Conduct of elections
He said the EC would supervise the presidential primary, assisted by the Electoral Committee of the party, and stressed that there would not be proxy voting because the procedure for the processing of proxy voting was time-consuming and that the party did not have much time at its disposal.
He stressed that all campaigning by aspirants should be conducted in a civil manner devoid of mudslinging, political vilification, insults, acrimony and rancour.
He was emphatic that contestants would have equal and unfettered access to delegates and all party structures and that any person or contestant who violated the regulations would be subjected to disciplinary action, in accordance with the party’s constitution.