By Samuel Hinneh

The first report of the Monitoring of Abuse of Incumbency Project in Ghana?s 2012 Elections have revealed various incidents of abuse of incumbency and electoral corruption in the run up to the December general elections.

The report cites the use of official public supported or state organised events for campaigning by the incumbent party, promoting of the incumbent party by state officials in official capacity and vote buying, which pose threat to the credibility of the general election process and outcome.

The incidents were observed in the Sunyani West (Brong Ahafo region), Avenor-Ave (Volta region), Ellembelle (Western region), Cape Coast (Central region) and Abuakwa North (Eastern region) constituencies.

The coalition of civil society organisations which undertook the project comprises the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition and the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD-Ghana).

The aim of the project is to monitor and expose the extent of both the occurrence and variety, of abuse of incumbency and pre-election political party corruption in Ghana, as a tool for promoting clean and fair elections in the upcoming 2012 elections. The project covered the months of May and June 2012.

The project tracked the abuse of institutional resources, like state- supported or organized platforms and state assets, budget resources, state media resources by the ruling party, sitting members of parliament and other current appointees; as well as monitor electoral corruption.

The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana makes it clear that political participation and competition must be fair. That is why Article 55 of the Constitution guarantees a right to all citizens to join and participate in the activities of political parties. It goes further to insist on equal access to the use of state media resources for political parties and their presidential candidates.

The Constitution provides these rules because in essence a political party is a private association of individuals with political objectives that seek to capture public power and to serve the public interest. When a member of a political party is therefore elected or appointed to a public office as President, Minister of State or Member of Parliament, that person becomes a public officer and is covered by Article 284 (relating to the code of conduct for public officers).

The first aspect of the project involves the monitoring of abuse of incumbency in thirty selected consistencies across the ten regions of Ghana. As part of the project activities, the Coalition purposively selected thirty (30) constituencies out of two hundred and thirty (230) existing constituencies in the country for observation. The constituencies were selected based on where ministers of state, sitting Members of Parliament (MPs), political party officials and Metropolitan, Municipal, District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) are contesting elections. An observer was recruited from each of the thirty constituencies while five observers were recruited to monitor the use of media resources.

The second aspect of the project involved the monitoring of two state owned newspapers (Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times), one state owned weekly paper (and Spectator), one state owned television station (GTV) and one state owned radio station (Uniiq FM).

On the media monitoring, both qualitative and quantitative content analysis tools were used to analyse data received from the media monitoring of news stories, features, articles, editorials, space and time allocation.

Use of official public/state-supported or state-organized events for campaigning by the incumbent party

During the Policy Fair, (held on May 2, 2012 at Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo region) which is a state-sponsored event intended to showcase government policies and programmes, the report says it was turned into the ruling government (National Democratic Congress) campaign programme.

?At the policy fair, the Regional Minister, who is acting as the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Sunyani West Municipal Assembly and also the NDC parliamentary candidate for the same Constituency, Hon. Kwadwo Nyamekye-Marfo, the Minister of Information, Hon. Fritz Baffour and other speakers at the event elaborated on the achievements of the ruling NDC highlighting infrastructural development. These achievements were also showcased pictorially at the stands of the District/Municipal Assemblies in the region. The Regional Minister and the Minister of Information then asked the audience to vote for NDC in the up-coming elections??, the report says.

At Akatsi in the Volta Region, our observer reported that the DCE Mr. Peter Nortsu-Kotoe, turned a state organised and sponsored program into a campaign event when he presented one thousand (1,000) dual desks to thirty-two (32) basic schools in the district. The event took place at District Assembly premises attended by School heads of beneficiary schools, the public, and constituency representatives of NDC. The DCE, in his address to the recipients and the gathering, acknowledged that the dual desks were procured by the GETFund, and also indicated that it was part of the ?Better Ghana Agenda?. He then proceeded to encourage the recipients and gathering to re-elect the NDC party into power, specifically, he stated that, ?this shows that the NDC deserves a second term.?

Use of public (state or local) vehicles free of charge or at discount rates for campaigning for or on behalf of an incumbent party

In Avenor in the Volta region, the report says at the 20th anniversary celebration of the NDC held on? ?May 13, 2012 in the Avenor-Ave constituency of the Volta region, a pick-up vehicle belonging to the District Mutual Health Insurance was seen carrying supporters of the NDC cladded in party colours and pieces of furniture to the anniversary grounds, at the forecourt of the Akatsi District Library.

Vote buying

In the Abuakwa North Constituency reported that Ambassador Victor Smith, an aspiring MP for the Abuakwa North constituency in the Eastern Region and currently Eastern Regional Minister, has donated DSTV dishes, to senior high schools in the constituency as well as to some youth in Kukurantumi ? the constituency capital. The former Ambassador has also donated motorbikes with his initials written on them to some people in/around the constituency with the intention of soliciting votes in the upcoming elections.The aspiring NPP MP, Mr. J.B Danquah for the Abuakwa North constituency in the Eastern Region has also renovated the old Tafo Presbyterian church. He has specifically tiled the floor and replaced the Louvre blades. He has also distributed unregistered motorbikes to some people in his constituency. These kinds of gifts to citizens and groups in an election year could serve as a corrupting influence on voters and undermine the fairness, freeness and integrity of elections and their outcomes.

News Allocation

Overall, the monitoring of news allocation to political parties for the month of May, and June 2012 by the Daily Graphic the Ghanaian Times, the Spectator and Ghana Television (GTV) revealed that, the ruling party, the National Democracy Congress (NDC) in terms of news distributions received the highest total allocation of 41.6% in May and? 42.3% in June respectively. The New Patriotic Party (NPP), the largest opposition party was allotted a news frequency slot of 26% in May and 23% in June. The Progressive Peoples Party (PPP), a new entrant into the political scene received a 10.6% share in May and 9.6% in June with the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) getting a 13% of news slots in May and 7.6% in June, 2012.The Spectator newspaper gave the ruling party 60% news share of slots in May and 50% share in June with 40% going to the NPP in May and 33% in June. The PPP was also featured in Spectator?s coverage in June with 17%.The Daily Graphic newspaper in May gave 49% to the NDC and 21% to the NPP and shared the rest of the slots among the PPP, CPP, PNC, GCPP and IPP with a total score of 9.5%, 12.6%, 4.7%, 1.5% and 1.5%, respectively, in news coverage. The GTV also gave the NDC a total of 31% news share and allotted the same total of 18% to the NPP and the PPP. For the month of June, the trend of coverage by the GTV was similar to the month of May. Total news share given to the NDC was 27% whiles the NPP received 20%.? The State ?owned television also gave a total of 13% to the CPP and a total of equal share of 6.6% each to the PPP and PNC.? The Ghanaian Times allotted to the NPP the highest news share of 48% and the NDC with 36% news share in May.? The Ghanaian Times also gave the CPP 12% and the PPP 4% total news share for the same month. It appears that the trend of coverage was largely driven by the activities of the different political parties during the period of observation.

Space Allocation and News Air Time

Overall, the data available as at June 2012 reveals unequal access to state media resources for political parties. The incumbent ruling party again received the highest attention in terms of news space allocation and news airtime by the Daily Graphic, The Ghanaian Times, The Spectator and Ghana Television.? The party recorded a total of 42.6% media print space and 47% Air time with an overall total, 10,975.3 CM? and 102 minutes and 2 seconds. The NPP received 24.2% print space and 2.4% air time with an overall total of 6,238.08 CM? and 5min.3 seconds. The NDC, for example, received the highest news space allocation with a total of 40.5% over the period of May, 2012. It, however, lost the highest position in terms of news airtime to the PPP, as the party recorded 29% higher than the NDC which recorded a total news air time score of 15% for the month of May, 2012.The PPP recorded a total of 11% news space and a total of 29% air time whereas the NPP recorded a total of 27.6% news space and a total of 21% news air time in May, 2012.The Spectator newspaper gave a total news space of 69% to the NDC and a total of 31% to the NPP in the month of May, 2012.The Daily Graphic newspaper gave a total of 43% to NDC and 21% to the NPP in the month of May, 2012.? PPP recorded 15% and CPP recorded a space allotment of 10%.? The newspaper also gave an equal share of 3% to the UFP and DFP for the month and a total of 5% to the PNC.? The Ghanaian Times newspaper allotted the highest news slot to the NPP as the NPP chalked a total of 42%.? The NDC came second with a score of 36%.

Coverage of Presidential Candidates

The NPP Flag- bearer Nana? Akufo Addo recorded the highest news share of 51% in the month of May, 2012 followed by Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom with 22%, The then? NDC Presidential candidate and Party Flag bearer, Professor Evans Atta Mills recorded a total of 6% and Dr. Abu Sakara recorded a total of 16% total news share.

In relations to space allotment to Party Flag Bearers, the trends of news space share were different.? Interestingly, while the NPP Flag Bearer had the highest share in terms of story coverage in May,?? the party received a total of 16% space share compared to the CPP Presidential Candidate, Dr. Abu Sakara, who had the highest space of 49% but recorded as low as 16% news story share.

Findings on air time allotment also revealed that GTV allotted equal air time of 49% to the NPP?s Nana Addo and PPP?s Dr. Nduom.In June, our data showed that the NPP Flag bearer recorded a total of 49% overall news share from the State ? owned media while the PPP?s Dr. Nduom recorded 26%, CPP?s Dr. Abu Sakara -16% and NDC?s Prof. Atta Mills, 5%.? On space allotment, the CPP?s Flag bearer, Dr. Abu Sakara recorded the highest space of 49%, the NDC?s Prof. Atta Mills recorded 22%; Nana? Akufo Addo was given a total space of 16% while the CPP?s Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom also had a total of 13%.In terms of air time, Ghana Television (GTV) gave an equal share of 49% to Nana Akufo Addo and Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom in June 2012.

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Recommendations

The abuse of incumbency and electoral corruption erodes the legitimacy of government and political leadership. Politicians and candidates must, therefore, take the issue seriously as it undermines free and fair competition for political power.

There appears to be some misunderstanding around the use of the MP?s Common Fund. The MP?s Common Fund is a public resource provided by Ghanaian taxpayers for use by MPs through and with the oversight of the District Assembly. Projects implemented with public money should not and cannot be presented as a partisan benefit. We, therefore, call on all Metropolitan/Municipal/District Assemblies and their chief executives to ensure that Common Fund projects are not hijacked for partisan gain. They should not be portrayed as personal donations by the MPs. Proper attribution should be made.

The Coalition has been monitoring other subtle forms of abuse, particularly in the use of billboards mounted by Assemblies. The Coalition calls on the Assemblies to desist from using Assembly resources in subtle ways to abuse incumbency by mounting billboards of government officials who are incidentally standing for re-election. This subtle abuse of incumbency has been used several times in Ghana?s political history. For instance, one can recall the ?now and then? campaign of the NPP and the bitter complaints of incumbency abuse that came from other parties about it.

The Coalition also wants to draw attention to the growing practice of making high value gifts to individuals such as religious and traditional leaders and some youths and youth groups during this election year. This is viewed as ?vote buying? and impacts negatively on the integrity of elections and the legitimacy of government. These are instances that are reminiscent of the Acheampong UNIGOV days when Peugeot 504s were distributed to traditional rulers in exchange of pledges of support for the UNIGOV idea ahead of that referendum. The Coalition draws the attention of the politicians to this practice of increasingly influencing money and materialism in our elections as it is a threat to the foundation of our young democracy and the legitimacy of government. We call on them to put a stop to it.

Lastly, the Coalition commends the State media for its efforts in meeting the constitutional requirements for equal and same access to the media for political parties and presidential candidates, respectively, as demonstrated in the current report.

The report clearly shows that in a number of instances our state-owned media provided more space and coverage for parties other than the ruling party or candidate. However, the Coalition wishes to take this opportunity to urge the State media houses and the National Media Commission to fast-track the development of the rules governing the coverage of elections so that stakeholders can better measure the adherence to the constitutional dictates of Article 55 of the Constitution and promote fair access to state media resources.

 

Source:?Samuel Hinneh

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