The filing fees for presidential and parliamentary candidates announced by the Electoral Commission (EC) have generated heated debate among political parties.
The National Chairman of the PNC, Mr Bernard Mornah, and the Policy Advisor of the PPP, Mr Kofi Asamoah Siaw, told the Daily Graphic that by the increases, the EC wanted to auction the country’s elections to the highest bidder and discourage other competent Ghanaians from contesting elections.
The General Secretary of the NDP, Mr Mohammed Frimpong, and the Deputy Communisations Director of the CPP, Mr Richard Adongo Aminu, indicated that the astronomical increases were an attempt by the EC to weed out the smaller parties.
But a Deputy General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Koku Anyidoho, and the General Secretary of the APC, Mr Razak Kojo Opoku, said the fixing of the filing fees was the prerogative of the EC and that their parties were ready to comply.
They said politics was a serious business and that those interested in contesting elections should have the financial muscle to support their activities.
When contacted, the Communications Director of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akomea, told the Daily Graphic that the party was yet to meet on the issue of the filing fees to take a decision.
Mr Mornah said the increases “are an affront and attack on democracy”, since they sought to place elections beyond the reach of the poor.
He said democracy should be available for all citizens to participate in but not to be the preserve of the rich.
He described the adjustment in fees as unacceptable.
Mr Mornah said the EC’s budget was funded by the state and wondered what the commission wanted to use the filing fees for.
He said the increases in the fees would disqualify people from contesting the elections.
“The fact that we should file nominations does not mean we should pay. Our elections should not be auctioned to the highest bidder,” he said.
He said the EC should maintain the 2012 filing fees of GH₵5,000 for presidential candidates and GH₵1,000 for parliamentary candidates.
Mr Siaw said the increases were “unreasonable”, considering the fact that the filing fee for parliamentary candidates was increased by about 1,000 per cent.
He said the posture of the EC amounted to monetisation of politics and preserving it for the highest bidder.
He said if care was not taken, rich people of questionable character would control the democratic process in the country.
Mr Siaw said the increase was a gradual attempt “to move into a dangerous slope to get a one-party state”, noting that the decision was likely to entice the ruling party to perpetuate itself in government.
He suggested that the EC should peg the filing fee for presidential candidates at GH₵20,000 and that for parliamentary candidates at GH₵2,000.
The Mr Frimpong said the astronomical increases were an attempt to oppress smaller parties.
“This does not make sense. Where do they expect a political party to get that amount from? This is daylight robbery,” he said.
He said when he heard the news of the new filing fees, his countenance changed, adding: “I asked: on what basis is the EC charging that amount?”
Mr Frimpong, therefore, called on Ghanaians, especially civil society organisations, to rise up and kick against the decision because “it is so exploitative”.
Mr Aminu said the only reason the EC would want to charge that amount was that “it wants to weed out the smaller parties”.
He said the fees were “way too high”, adding: “You do not need to have financial arm or muscle to contribute your quota to nation building.”
Mr Aminu said the CPP would protest against these “outrageous” fees and called on Ghanaians to do same.
Mr Anyidoho said the EC had the right to take administrative decisions without the consent of political parties and indicated that the decision to increase the filing fees was within the rights of the commission, for which reason the NDC had no option but to comply with the decision.
He said wanting to become a President or a Member of Parliament (MP) “is a serious business”.
Therefore, he said, persons willing to become Presidents or MPs should have the financial wherewithal to support the process.
The NDC deputy scribe said if flag bearers could find the resources to go round the country to campaign, they could, in a similar fashion, raise resources to pay the filing fee.
Mr Anyidoho refuted suggestions that the NDC was okay with the increases because it was the ruling party.
He indicated that the NDC was a big party and that it did not have any difficulty raising money to pay the filing fees while it was in opposition.
APC not bothered
A statement signed and issued by Mr Opoku indicated that the APC supported the EC’s decision because the party did not see anything wrong with the new filing fees, especially that for presidential aspirants.
“The EC has done well with such a decision but we honestly think that the presidential filing fee should have been GH₵120,000 because to become the first gentleman of the land comes with high standards to comply with,” it said.
On the parliamentary filing fee, it said the APC’s parliamentary candidates were better positioned to easily win the seats and so the party “shall raise the GH₵10,000 for every candidate to file successfully with the EC”.