Although Ghana has been upgraded to the modest level of a lower-middle income country in recent times, the statistics show that a great many of her people still live in excruciating poverty. Data shows that over 78 per cent of the population survive on less than US$2.0 a day, whereas 30 per cent of the population live on less still – less than a meagre dollar a day.

The statistics show that we are largely poor, and women bear the brunt of this unkind state of poverty more. It will, therefore, follow as a matter of logic that not all persons seeking to represent Ghanaians in our democratic process will be persons of means. As such, our general economic terrain must be considered in setting fees and conditions for any democratic process, which is expected to be participatory and all-inclusive.

It, therefore, came as a major surprise when news broke of Ghana’s Electoral Commission’s objective to hike the fees for candidates intending to file for the positions of president and parliamentary positions. Following this unpleasant news, representatives of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) attended the IPAC meeting held last week to deliberate on this increment of fees. The Fighters are reliably informed that the argument offered by the CPP to the EC to reconsider the proposed presidential fees and also to, either maintain the filing fee of GHS 1,000.00 or to increase it to just GHS 2,000.00 instead of the proposed GHS10,000.00 for parliamentary candidates, fell on deaf ears. Our comrades pointed out to the Commission that such a hefty filing fee of GHS 10,000.00 would marginalise and exclude women from offering themselves as candidates for the forthcoming elections.

However, Madam Charlotte Osei, Chairperson of the EC, and two other members of the committee – Miss Georgina Opoku Amankwa and Mrs. Pauline Adobea Dadzawa – championed the agenda to increase the filing fee, stating that women were capable of raising the funds.

It came across as very unfortunate for women, who should appreciate more the gravamen of the challenges that confront our gender, to take such a position which, to put it lightly, is not steeped in reality. While it is true that there may be a few women of means in our society, it does not necessarily mean they are the best materials for leadership positions. And also, the argument for maintenance or a drastic reduction in the newly proposed fees is not meant to protect those who already have the means or the networks to raise such huge sums, but rather those capable to lead, yet unable to afford these monies for the sole purpose of filing.

Their argument about women being capable of raising funds is neither here nor there. It is clear from the trend since 1992 that the excessive monetisation of our elections has led to entrenched corruption and rent-seeking, where campaign sponsors look for returns in the form of contracts and other favours, rendering elected officers incapable of discharging their duties in a fair and transparent manner.

Also, the argument is made that women can take contributions from individual constituents without resorting to lump-sum funding from the so-called ‘big men’ or ‘big women’. This argument, I must say, is a misplaced one. Because the main purposes of such contributions are to support the candidates for campaign and other forms of mobilisation in order to win elections, not for sunk costs such as filing fees to an EC already funded by the people.

While the tax monies of our impoverished constituency members are already being used to fund the EC, why should the EC attempt to further milk the contributions of the same poor party members whose only intentions are to help mobilise their pennies to help their candidate of choice emerge victorious? Does the EC believe constituency members donate funds to a candidate only so they can dole it out to an EC already funded with their tax monies? I don’t think so.

The EC must, therefore, wake up to the reality of our political condition and realise that their action will only serve as a further stumbling block to gender mainstreaming of our democratic landscape. Because, the facts clearly show that in our parliament of 275 representatives, women only take up 29 seats – that is about 10 per cent representation of women in our legislative body. In the last population census of 2010, the results revealed that 51.2 per cent of those counted were females to 48.8 per cent being men. Why then should representation be tilted, so heavily, towards the less populous gender? And why should some leading women in our society be found pushing positions that only go to entrench this status quo?

While Mrs Charlotte Osei and her colleagues are at it, they must not lose sight of calls to ensure greater participation of women in our democratic process. The Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, John Ackon, at a programme with the Australian High Commission in 2015, called on political parties to empower more women and include them in their activities. The low representation of women in parliament, in the minister’s view, does not speak well of Ghana’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (Not to talk of the SDGs). He noted that a lot more needs to be done to encourage women to take advantage of the opportunities available to them in politics. From the afore stated, I don’t think hiking of filing fees by such astronomical proportions is one of those opportunities to encourage greater participation of women in the politics of this country.

The EC must also listen to other colleague women in the political space who definitely find such fees a burden. The vice chairperson of the NDC, Madam Anita De Sosoo, stated that female politicians had to overcome financial and family demands in running a political campaign. She further stated that female representation in politics was a human rights issue and should be seen as a pillar in our democracy. I doubt if Madam De Sosoo will consider this profane hike in filing fees charitable to the rights of women to represent and be represented in our democracy.

In many other democracies, public financing for parties and its candidates is common. According to ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, out of a sample of over 180 nations, 25% of nations provide no direct or indirect public funding; 58% provide direct public funding, and 60% of nations provide indirect public funding. Some countries provide both. Ghana likely falls within the minority category of countries that do not provide any form of support for candidates seeking to represent their people. As such, in a country where there is no such support for candidates, this sort of demand by the EC only goes to put those candidates with deeper pockets, but not necessarily the best ideas nor abilities, in the race while the choices of others are threatened with being relegated out of the elections.

This whopping sums being demanded by the EC all of a sudden, without making it progressive increments over the years, only smacks of an attempt to extort from the political space. So The Fighters ask, just like the unscrupulous foot soldiers who consider elections as their cocoa season, is the EC attempting to lump itself into that category? We don’t want to think so. The EC must rise above the allure of mammon and engage government and other stakeholders constructively on how to get the necessary funding for their operations, while still maintaining a fair playing field for those with a vision to represent and serve their people. Such persons should not be sidelined by the EC because of a singular elitist money worshipping rule. Why is the EC placing economic stumbling blocks in the way of the more vulnerable in our society, like women, who may want to contest in order to represent and be represented?

Finally, on the legal front, we want to state clearly our support for the position of Professor Kwaku Asare in his letter to the EC concerning this matter. Though the laws may permit the EC to charge some fees, the determination of such fees must be subject to the fundamental rights of citizens to vote and be voted for. The EC is, therefore, obliged to listen to the concerns which are being raised. Failing to do so will only lead to the unfair exclusion of candidates of choice of some citizens from the electoral process. This, without any mental effort whatsoever, is clearly counterproductive to the EC’s own mandate of ensuring free and fair elections in a democratic Ghana.

Revolutionary Regards:

Commander Kate Tutu
Head -Enterprise and Development
CPP Youth League (Fighters)

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