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Opinions of Saturday, 30 August 2003

Columnist: GNA

Expunge Ghost Political Parties

A GNA feature by Francis Ameyibor

Accra, Aug. 29, GNA - Hey My Brother! Are you sure Ghana has 10 registered political parties?

Yes sir.

This was a dialogue between a sceptical Chief Editor and a Reporter, who was very sure of his facts.

Are you sure there is a Ghana Democratic Republican Party (GDRP)? Yes sir, Mr Kofi Amoah, a citizen of this country, registered the party.

Before you continue with this piece could you please list the remaining nine?

Just for the fun of it. Who are the National Chairmen and General Secretaries of these parties?

When the Fourth Republican Constitution was promulgated in 1992, a number of people formed groups and associations that metamorphosed into political parties, since the requirements were not stringent.

Like the Parable of the Sower, some of the political parties fell on the roadside and birds devoured them; some fell on rocks and could not germinate because of lack of soil; some fell on shallow soils so they blossomed for a while and died off but a few fell on good soil and these are growing, albeit stunted.

A leader of one of the parties had stated that his party is on holiday. Others have been transformed into pressure groups operating from the comfort of their homes and making noise once a while to justify their existence as political parties.

The tall list of political parties includes: New Patriotic Party (NPP) and its archrival National Democratic Congress (NDC) and good old Convention People's Party (CPP).

The others are: People's National Convention (PNC), Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), National Reform Party (NRP) and Democratic People's Party (DPP) all claiming lineage with the Nkrumahist tradition.

The rest are: United Ghana Movement (UGM) and Every Ghanaian Living Everywhere (EGLE).

Non-Compliance with Laws

Ghana News Agency investigations at the Electoral Commission (EC) revealed that all the parties failed to comply with the requirement of the Political Parties Act on submission of audited accounts to the Commission.

The law says: "A political party shall, within six months from December 31st of each year, file with the Commission a return indicating the state of its accounts; the source of its funds and membership dues paid or risk cancellation of its registration.

"Without prejudice to any other penalty prescribed by the Act or any other enactment, where a political party refuses or neglects to comply with the provision or submits a declaration that is false in any material, the Commission may cancel its registration."

This offers the EC a strong tonic to discipline these dormant parties that operate only as electoral tools. The law explicitly empowers the Commission to withdraw the certificate of parties that failed to comply with the directive.

These are constitutional and statutory provisions that the parties are required to make available to the Commission for verification.

Recalcitrant Parties

CPP, NDC and the PNC have filed up to 2001. The EGLE, GDRP, DPP and the NRP have never submitted an audited account to the Commission, whilst the UGM submitted only for 1999.

Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan's Position

When the GNA asked the Chairman of the Commission, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan to react on the findings, he said even though the Commission is empowered by law to withdraw the certificate of any party that fails to comply with the law, the EC has resorted to dialogue. That it had chosen to sensitise and educate the parties to ensure compliance. Dr Afari-Gyan said a strict enforcement of the law could jeopardise the country's evolving democracy adding that the Commission would dialogue with the parties through the Intra-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) to ensure compliance.

"Imagine the implication of withdrawing the certificates of all the political parties in the country... It will create a constitutional crisis."

However, some Political Analysts and Social Commentators, who discussed the issue both on television and radio disagreed with the Commissioner's position and argued that the Commission should find other legal means of whipping up the parties to ensure compliance. They argued that the laws are made to ensure compliance and urged the Commission to muster courage to call the parties to order.

NPP Condemned Dormant Political Parties

Mr Dan Botwe, General Secretary of the ruling NPP, had condemned the dormant political parties, saying, they see party politics only as an electoral tool.

He urged political parties to broaden their scope of operations especially in between elections to include analysis of the elections, educating the electorate and contributing to national issues as well as being a constructive opposition party.

Arguably, Mr Botwe's call is timely and laudable as Article 55 and 56 of the 1992 Constitution and the Political Parties Law; PNDCL 281 provides the main legal framework for the formation and operation of parties in the country.

Some political parties have flouted the constitutional provisions and the Political Parties Law (Act 574) with impunity.

These include the disclosure of the type of furniture in use, payment of the salaries of party office personnel, utility bills and other expenditure.

The EC has come out with a checklist to facilitate such inspections at the national, regional and district offices of these political parties.

The checklist includes the declaration of office facility, date and mode of acquisition and the number of rooms and office equipment. The parties are also required to declare the contributions by supporters and members in the form of dues or donation in cash or in kind.

The Act says a political party shall submit to the Commission the names, titles and addressees of its officers at the national, regional, district and constituency levels and also at such other levels of organisation as the Commission may direct and the name and address of the auditors.