The decision by the Electoral Commission (EC) to peg the filing fee for presidential aspirants in Election 2020 at GH¢100,000 has irked many political parties.
With the exception of the Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG), six other political parties contacted by the Daily Graphic criticised the election management body for increasing the filing fee from GH¢50,000, which was what applied in the 2016 elections, to GH¢100,000.
The six political parties that expressed reservation over the EC’s decision were the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the People’s National Convention (PNC), the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
Four years ago, a similar incident happened and the parties again criticised the EC for the high filing fees.
Last Monday, the EC opened online nominations for presidential and parliamentary candidates for the December 7, 2020 elections.
Its Chairperson said the filing fee for presidential aspirants would be GH¢100,000, a 100 per cent increment over the fee for the 2016 elections, while that for parliamentary candidates would remain unchanged at GH¢10,000.
The founder and flag bearer of the LPG, Mr Kofi Akpaloo, said the party was in support of the GH¢100,000 presidential filing fee.
According to him, the presidential race was for only one person, and that any political party of repute should be able to raise the money for its presidential candidate.
In 2016, when a similar situation arose, Mr Akpaloo did not criticise the amount the EC had proposed to charge.
He, however, expressed worry over the GH¢10,000 filing fee for parliamentary candidates, describing it as “way, way high”.
According to him, maintaining the parliamentary filing fee at GH¢10,000 was a bad idea, since the fee would discourage many candidates from contesting, particularly those from the smaller parties.
Reacting to the EC’s decision, the Director of Elections for the NPP, Mr Evans Nimako, said the party would rather the EC had maintained the Election 2016 presidential filing fee, just as it did for the parliamentary filing fee.
“We would have loved it if the manner in which they maintained the parliamentary filing fee had applied to the presidential fee,” he said.
The flag bearer of the PPP, Ms Brigitte Dzogbenuku, said the EC did not have any justification for the increment, since all of its operations were funded by the state.
“The EC is funded by taxpayers’ money, and so what is the justification for the increment?” she asked.
According to her, the EC must explain to the public why it needed that huge amount as filing fee when it was fully funded by the state, and also the modalities used by the election management body at arriving at the GHc100,000.
She described the filing fee as a punitive charge that would discourage many people from engaging in the country’s fledgling multi-party democracy.
“The EC must encourage people to take an active part in politics and not discourage them with such exorbitant filing fee. Our democracy is now about money, which should not be the case. This is what affects us as a nation,” she added.
For the NDC, the 100 per cent increment in the presidential filing fee was a reflection of what it described as the arbitrariness of the EC.
“This matter never came to IPAC.
It was never discussed for the political parties to make an input. The EC just took its own decision,” the Director of Elections of the NDC, Mr Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, said.
He described the 100 per cent increment as “ridiculous” and said the EC should have considered the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We should be concerned about reducing the cost of politics. When democracy becomes too expensive, it then becomes the domain of the highest bidder,” he said.
The National Chairman of the PNC, Mr Bernard Mornah, said the decision by the EC was a threat to multi-party democracy.
He wondered why the EC would even charge filing fee when its operations were fully funded by the state.
“The EC’s budget has been fully paid for by the state. For the EC to determine that it will price democracy out of the reach of the poor is a threat to democracy. The decision means that a poor person with brilliant ideas and capable of leading the nation will be denied the opportunity to do so,” he said.
The General Secretary of the CPP, Nana Yaa Akyimpim Jantuah, said the party was not happy with the decision by the EC to set this year’s presidential filing fee at GH¢100,000.
She explained that the 100 per cent increment in the filing fee from the GH¢50,000 in the 2016 elections was unacceptable, since things were difficult as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are not okay; it’s quite high,” she said, adding: “We don’t have any idea about how it was set.”
The Founder and flag bearer of the All People’s Congress (APC), Hassan Ayariga, described the presidential filing fee as “outrageous”.
“I still don’t understand. We are in a pandemic, with people finding it difficult to make ends meet. Why has the EC increased the fees by 100 per cent?” he asked.
In 2016, the EC announced a filing fee of GH¢50, 000, an increment of 500 per cent over the GH¢10,000 charged in the 2012 elections.
The commission also increased the fee for parliamentary candidates to GH¢10,000, as against the GH¢1,000 paid in 2012.
Many of the political parties raised their voices against the fee for presidential aspirants, and the PPP, then led by Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, on September 8, went to court to compel the EC to review the fee.
The PPP pursued a declaration that Regulation 45 of C.I. 94 was discriminatory, arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable; “that the entire C.I. 94 does not contain the appropriate relevant provisions that meet the intendment of Article 296 of the 1992 Constitution”.
It said although the EC, per PNDC laws 284 and 285, had discretionary powers to charge filing fee for presidential and parliamentary elections, the electoral body needed a statutory instrument, not a C.I., to exercise those discretionary powers.
On November 2, the High Court in Accra dismissed the case against the EC, on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the constitutional matters raised by the applicant.
Only the Supreme Court, the presiding judge, Mrs Justice Jennifer Tagoe, said had the jurisdiction to determine constitutional matters.