Presidential and parliamentary elections in Ghana are held generally alongside each other on 7 December every four years.
This was after the country regained constitutional rule on January 7, 1993.
Before elections are held, interested candidates make known their intentions to contest parliamentary and the presidential seats.
In their bid to win the elections, aspirants go round to convince citizens to vote for them in the form of campaigns. In the course of time, however, trying to win the votes of the masses has not only moved from just convincing people to vote for them (candidates) but to making promises of what they would offer citizens when voted into power.
As the competition became tighter, politicians began to entice people by showing signs of their capabilities prior to being voted for. In doing so, some started undertaking projects in the community like toilet facilities, clean up exercise, supporting flood victims and taking care of personal needs of people in a constituency.
Slowly, the phenomenon moved from donation to aspirants supporting the political party office structures.
For instance, some aspirants go as far as renting office spaces for the party as well as fund the party’s expenses in the constituents while others donate chairs.
So it became a question of the highest bidder where people who make the biggest contribution get elected or so it seemed.
Thus, the more a candidate’s contribution, the more the individual is recognized and this usually influences the voting power of the constituents.
This however, moved from the normal practice and got to a stage where people (aspirants) started paying delegates to vote from them.
These was because delegates who voted were in few numbers making it easier for them to be influenced.
During parliamentary primaries not all card bearing members are allowed to vote. Polling station executives, parties executive are those who usually vote during this occasion.
Fast forward, the NPP on June 20, 2020, held it primaries to elect it parliamentary aspirants.
After the elections, some aspirants who lost accused their contenders of vote buying while some openly said they bought votes and still lost.
For instance, Dr Dickson Adomako Kissi, who won the Anyaa Sowutuom parliamentary race of the governing New Patriotic Party, is reported to have said he spent more than GH¢1 million in cash on his delegates.
Also, for the Tema East parliamentary race, Benjamin Ashitey Armah also publicly said while he gave each of the 767 delegates GH¢550, his main contender, the incumbent MP, Daniel Titus-Glover, gave each delegate a tabletop fridge and GH¢1,000.
Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) in their Corruption Watch report said Hajia Abibata Shanni Mahama Zakaria, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Microfinance and Loans Centre (MASLOC) was involved in vote-buying during the NPP Parliamentary primaries.
According to the findings, Hajia Abibata Zakaria facilitated the use of MASLOC money to allegedly induce NPP delegates and hopefully secure their votes in December 7 polls.
Abibata Zakaria lost her seat against Farouk Aliu Mahama, son of the late former Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama.
Also, defeated Member of Parliament for Mpohor, Alex Agyekum, said despite paying double the amount his other contestant, John Saanie, paid to delegates during the recent New Patriotic Party (NPP) primaries, he still lost.
Let’s have a look at what the Law says about vote buying per the Ghana’s constitutions.
What Does The Law Say?
There is a law on the phenomenon of vote-buying in Ghana. Under the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, vote-buying is an offence in Section 33 of the Representation of People Law, 1992. According to Section 33 of the law, titled, Bribery, a person commits the offence of bribery:
(a) If he directly or indirectly acts through another person –
(i) Gives money or obtains an office for a voter in order to induce the voter to vote or refrain from voting.
(ii) Corruptly does such an act on account of a voter having voted or refrained from voting.
(iii) Makes a gift or provides something of value to a voter to induce the voter to vote in a certain way or to obtain the election of a candidate.
(iv) If he advances or pays money or causes money to be paid to or for the use of a person with the intent that the money or part of it shall be expended in bribery at an election…,
(v) if before or during an election he directly or indirectly, by himself or through another person acting on his behalf, receives, agrees or contracts for money, gift, a loan or valuable consideration or an office, place or employment for himself or for another person for voting or agreeing to vote, refrain or agreeing to refrain from voting.
Could it be that these people are ignorant of the law?
The first question one may ask is what exactly do the aspirants want? And how do the delegates mark their candidates?
In the case of the NPP Primaries some aspirants said even though they were involved in vote buying they still lost their seats and the elections at large. These could be interpreted that the aspirant was just not the choice of the people but they still took monies for the aspirant.
However, the question is that what can be done to stop aspirant form inducing delegates.
One answer comes to mind; the primaries should not be limited to executives of the party but to all card baring members.
These may prevent aspirants from inducing delegates as the number would be too large for him to engage in vote buying.
The parties must strengthen their record keeping and party structures so they can track their members so it is difficult to influence delegates as delegates will be voted for based on the service and hard work in the community.
Now in the case of the aspirant
For the aspirants involved in vote buying, one may have to understand the rationale behind it.
If the candidates engages in vote buying then they don’t really know they are coming in for in parliament, because the kind of things they may be giving to the delegates, they may never receive enough in parliament to recover.
If we go through the stories of some of the items been given, they are quite expensive. So that person giving such items, one may ask what are their expectation? Are they paying to serve the people in Parliament? Do they believe is right to pay to serve? What then is the ideal? Or the person is coming in to look for something? There is a perception that once you get in there you are capable of making a lot of money that you ought not to make under normal circumstances. So, for those who are inducing maybe they have an eye of getting something they should not have. For instance, if they believe that they will be able recover the money they spent during campaign in parliament then there is a problem because that could fall under corruption because they are going they just to make money which should not be the case.
The delegates cannot be blamed but rather the candidates who engage in vote buying because one must understand their perception of coming to parliament and the true role of the parliamentarian.
Meanwhile, it is fair to say the institutions do not that vote buying is a crime as some security agencies are yet to make an arrest after some candidates came out to say they were involved in vote-buying.
These people need to be sanctioned.
Now to the main question; does vote-buying really put you to parliament?
Some aspirant who were involved in vote buying lost their seat, while others retained their seat.
Some of the excuses given for not retaining their MP was that their MP was too quiet in parliament while Assibey-Yeboah who was active in parliament was voted out.
The question is what exactly are the candidates marked for?
Speaking to a renowned political science lecturer, Professor Ransford Gyampo, “The idea of representation simply connotes going to parliament to act in a manner responsive to the interest of constituents. Parliamentarians are therefore to act first in the interest of those who sent them there. Partisan interest and building reputation in parliament are secondary in true parliamentary practices in every serious democracy. The Parliamentarian is therefore a representation of his people first. In doing this, he must lobby to ensure governmental attention is directed to his or constituency to solve all developmental needs of his or her constituents. Such parliamentarians, operating as trustees, must act on behalf and in the interest of their constituents in deciding on general issues of national development. However, a parliamentarian must consult constituents when it comes to making decisions on matters that directly bothers on constituent interest. They must periodically visit their constituencies to hear fest hand information about the plight of the people and endeavor to ensure that development projects attracted to constituencies becomes visible and beneficial to all. It is only when such projects are tangibly seen and benefitted by all that the phenomenon of constituent-ambush of parliamentarians to demand monetary handouts will reduce.
After doing these, a parliamentarian must also endeavor to be heard on the floor of parliament, shaping debates and contributing to discussions. This is a means to build career, shape parliamentary practices and boost confidence of constituents and the general citizenry in a parliamentarian.
Any parliamentarian who goes to parliament to only support partisan interest and serve silently on committees can be hailed by parliament. He can be hailed in his or her own eyes as having done well. But he or she, must necessarily be taught the painful lesson of massive electoral defeat during primaries by constituents. This is because, by the reasoning of John Locke, the parliamentarian only exercises a fiduciary trust reposed in him by the citizenry via a social contract. Under the social contract, the parliamentarian will remain in office so long as he does not violate the fiduciary trust, but serves the interest of constituents. The constituents reserve the ultimate right to actually recall their representatives at any time, when they feel their interest isn’t being served. In Ghana, we have to wait for four years to determine whether to return parliamentarians to parliament or kick them out. Elsewhere, through the principle of Recall, constituents are empowered to petition the Speaker of Parliament to have their representatives sent back to their constituencies for only excelling parliament and performing abysmally in constituencies.
Parliamentary practices should never be affected when those who never served the interest of constituents are withdrawn. As indicated earlier, parliamentarians aren’t voted to go and strengthen parliamentary practices. They are voted to go and serve the interest of their constituents.”
In conclusion, yes delegates accept monies, other items to vote from aspirants it does not influence the decision of the delegate on who to vote for.
One cannot buy a parliamentary seat.
As to what they really expect from aspirants or MPs is a question for another day.