Research carried out by

Center for Democratic Development Ghana

Ghana

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

Population: 30.1 million
Head of Government: President Nana Akufo Addo
Ruling party/coalition: New Patriotic Party
Last election: December 2020
Next election: 2024
Registered voters: 15.1 million (2020)
Annual salary of member of legislature: GHC 233,000 (US$40,775)

1
Average cost to get elected to parliament:
US$ 68,215
2
49% of survey respondents think women are disadvantaged by the high cost of politics
49%
3
Total average cost to get elected to parliament as % of annual MP salary:
167%
4
65% of survey respondents think youth are disadvantaged by high cost of politics
65%
5
Main source of funding:
Personal resources
6
96% of candidates who say they will spend more if they contest another election
96%
7
Annual expenditure in office to meet constituents needs:
US$ 12,734

Population: 30.1 million
Head of Government: President Nana Akufo Addo
Ruling party/coalition: New Patriotic Party
Last election: December 2020
Next election: 2024
Registered voters: 15.1 million (2020)
Annual salary of member of legislature: GHC 233,000 (US$40,775)

Key Findings

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Election campaigns

  • Average expenditure during primary processes was GHS 154,100 with the largest expenditure set aside for campaigns at 39%.
  • Average expenditure on the election campaign was GHS 235,700 with the largest expenditure set aside for campaigns at 47%. On average women spent 77% of what the average man spent during the election campaign. Just 13% of Ghana’s 2016 parliament is female.
  • Candidates who engage in politics in municipal areas consistently spend more during the parliamentary elections than those who contest in cities or rural settlements.
  • Campaigns involving long-serving incumbent MPs’ tend to be associated with higher costs as challengers must overcome the inherent fundraising advantage of the sitting member.
  • Candidates and MPs’ political activities are influenced by a myriad of social and political forces. Groups identified by this survey include: spiritual leaders, youth associations, youth party supporters, party foot soldiers, traditional authorities, needy individuals, local development organisations, educational institutions, communities Different groups have greater influence at different stages of the electoral process; primaries, parliamentary and during parliamentary tenure. Candidates are expected to provide rewards or show gratitude to each of these groups of local influencers for offering assistance to them during the contest of the primaries and parliamentary elections, either in cash or in-kind.

In Office

  • For those elected to serve four demands were regularly cited as being placed on them by constituents: lobbying for development projects in their constituencies, providing financial support directly to constituents, making good laws for the country, and providing their constituencies with social infrastructure (schools, health clinics).
  • MPs believe that citizens view them principally as providers of social development and charity as opposed to elected representatives tasked with legislating, oversight and representation.
  • The financial demands of being an MP whether incurred as part of the election campaign or as part of constituency service create perverse incentives for MPs to focus on individual interests over public ones once in office.

Raising the funds

  • The two most frequently cited sources of campaign funds were personal income (specifically savings and salaries) and loans from friends and family members.
  • Candidates are at the centre of their own campaign fund mobilisation and this suggests that the stakes for those who lose are very high.
  • Political party financial support has dropped in importance whilst the ability to generate revenue from the diaspora will be interesting to monitor further for two reasons; diaspora voting is expected in the 2020 election and the depreciation of the Cedi against the USD makes this foreign currency go further in campaigns.

Attitudes towards costs/reforms

  • 88% of survey respondents supported civic education programmes that encourage voters to stop making financial demands on candidates or MPs.
  • 66% believed that state funding for political parties and candidates was a good idea, reducing personal exposure to financial risk.
  • 72% of the respondents expressed support for sanctions against those who engage in political patronage.
  • 80% supported laws that require balanced media coverage during elections.

Implications of rising costs

  • Exclusion: 85% of respondents agreed that the high cost of politics has made it quite impossible for the average person to seek political office. This does not make for a diverse legislature that represents a cross-section of the population; which in turn leads to the alienation of groups in society who are not adequately represented in parliament.
  • Disillusionment: the cost of politics impacted the competence of politicians and their relationship with their constituencies. When the selection of candidates becomes more about their ability to pay than their ability to serve, negative consequences are likely to ensue. Voters are a part of the negative cycle of rising costs, in which the emphasis falls too heavily on the wealth of individuals.
  • Corruption: Money is damaging the country’s democratic structures. Survey respondents expressed support for ‘rewarding loyal supporters for their electoral support during previous elections’ (83%) & approved or strongly approved of ‘providing individuals and communities with goods and services for political support’ (76%). Conversely, 79% were also in favour of regulations that prohibited direct vote-buying. Perhaps pointing to a collective action problem in which candidates for elected office would support reform but only if all others did the same.

Recommendations

  • Further efforts, through both formal and informal channels, to increase the transparency of election spending, including requiring candidates and parties to be more open about the costs they incur.
  • Initiation of a national dialogue among political parties, electoral institutions, and civil society to deliberate on the impact of money on politics and the expectations citizens and politicians have in terms of its regulation.
  • Greater engagement with citizens about the negative implications of making direct financial demands on their MP.
  • Introduce practices and incentives that support parties to build loyal memberships and long term financial planning for elections (possibly linked to state funding).

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