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15 June 2016

Political parties resurrect call for state funding

Alban Bagbin, Majority Leader and Minority leader Osei-Kyei Mensah Bonsu in an enhanced photo

Alban Bagbin, Majority Leader and Minority leader Osei-Kyei Mensah Bonsu in an enhanced photo

The two major political parties in the country have revived a campaign for the state funding of their activities, barely five months to elections.

The leaders of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) and opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Parliament say state funding of political parties will reduce corruption in government and foster multi-party democracy.

Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and Majority Leader, Alban Bagbin say the call is consistent with Ghana’s decision to take the path of democracy.

“I think as a nation we need to be looking at [state funding of political parties],” said Mr Kyei-Mensah Bonsu.

He, however, criticised the Electoral Commission (EC) for certifying political parties without proper regulation of existing smaller ones, a situation he says has bred many “non-serious” political parties.

“The EC last year came for some monies from parliament in order to be able to go around the country and ascertain the compliance of accredited political parties in respect of whether they exist in two-thirds of districts in the country, they didn’t do it,” he said.

Mr Kyei-Mensah Bonsu says although state funding of parties will deepen Ghana’s mul

ti-party democracy, there is a need to streamline which parties can access funds to support them before a law is enacted to that effect.

“All that we are hearing now is a resurrection of otherwise dead political parties. As we move into the future, many people will come up with their own political parties. Let’s distinguish the serious ones from the non-serious ones,” he urged.

The call for state funding of political parties has come up for debate many times.

Although political parties and some civil society organisations have supported the call, there has always been disagreements over air-tight criteria to determine which parties must receive support from state coffers.

However, Mr Kyei-Mensah Bonsu proposes that a benchmark of votes obtained during elections should determine how much will be allocated to a given party.

“If you are able to score maybe 3% [or 5%] of the voting populace then some percentage of the funds will be given to [the party],” he suggests.

Majority Leader, Alban Bagbin, who has been making the call for many months, also says when friends and businesses fund a political party, in the event that that political party wins it now automatically becomes indebted to these financiers.

“Wherever [the party] got that resources from to fund the party, [they have] to pay back,” said Mr Bagbin.

Mr Bagbin also wants MPs to be given some support as they are likely to be compromised if their financiers approach them for special favours.

“If you don’t take an interest in how they assume that position and you are leaving it to them, then at the same time you are risking your interest,” he said.

He suggests that the initial agreement between John Kufuor’s government and Kosmos Energy was not signed with the country’s interest in mind because of a possible funding of the campaign of NPP, the party that brought Kufuor to the Presidency.

There are currently about 25 certified political parties in the country, and apart from the NDC, NPP and a handful of others, most of the parties are usually inactive until it is time for the general election.

Meanwhile, some political commentators say funding of political parties may be too much of a burden on the state’s scarce funds.

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