The cost of parliamentary politics in Ghana

The cost of parliamentary politics in Ghana
Ghana has a long history of campaign financing. This study looks at the cost of parliamentary politics in the West Africa country.
Cost of politics in Ghana front cover page
05 September 2016
Kojo Asante
Franklin Oduro

Since returning to democratic governance over two decades ago, competitive elections have been salient features of Ghana’s multi-party politics. Regular elections between competing political parties and candidates have been the dominant method of choosing representatives to the legislature and composing the government.

Candidates seeking election in their constituencies have to undertake rigorous campaigns to mobilise voters in order to build their trust in democracy and the political system. These candidates’ ability to disseminate campaign messages to the electorate in order to obtain their support, educate them on the electoral process and ensure their enthusiasm and participation in the election have largely depended on availability of funds. Indeed, the role of money in competitive politics and democracy generally cannot be overemphasised. Campaign funds have been widely regarded as the oil that greases the wheel of candidates’ electoral success, and the lifeblood that sustains the momentum towards intra-party and inter-party electoral competition.

As Ghana prepares to hold its seventh presidential and parliamentary elections, many pundits have revisited the debate about how MPs fund their constituency campaigns and what drives the costs of their political activities and programmes while in office. The existing literature indicates that MPs in countries such as Ghana finance their constituency campaigns from personal resources, and incumbents affiliated to the ruling party enjoy state sponsorship that feed off neopatrimonial ties.

As a result, recent public discourses on political financing in Ghana show a growing concern about the influence of money in the body politic including the financial burden imposed on MPs by their constituents. Given the vigorous national debate on campaign finance and political corruption, this background paper attempts to interrogate how Members of Parliament (MPs) have funded constituency primaries and parliamentary elections. It also seeks to examine the nature of financial demands imposed on MPs by their constituents and how MPs have responded to constituency financial demands while in office, and concludes by analysing the ramifications for Ghana’s democratic development.