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Politics of Friday, 28 July 2006

Source: GNA

Incumbency enhance political party's financial strength - Participants

Accra, July 28, GNA - Participants at West African Sub-Regional maiden discourse on consolidating multi-party democracy on Friday acknowledged that incumbency boosted ruling party's financial power. They noted that non-public contributors to political party operators tended more to focus and divert resources to ruling parties to the detriment of other opposition parties, the participants concluded.

The participants including representatives of Political parties from eight West African countries, legal practitioners, parliamentarians, democratic stakeholders and other civil society groups called for the creation of a pool of funds for political parties. Delegates from Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, The Gambia, Benin and Togo are attending the two-day conference being organized under the auspices of the West African Regional Programme of Political Parties being hosted by Ghana's Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy (NIMD). The participants suggested that the amount of budgetary support should be determined by an Act of Parliament while donations from individuals, organisations and foreign sources should also go into the fund.

The fund could give advantage of legal cover and a guaranteed support for political parties rather than the current practices, which relied on the indulgence or goodwill of governments. "For multi-party politics to thrive we need a number of viable political parties," Professor Kofi Kumado, Director Legon Centre for International Affairs and a Law Professor of University of Ghana, stated.

Prof Kumado, who was speaking on: "Financing of Political Parties," noted that public funding for political parties was beyond making budgetary allocation to political parties, "it is about winning elections, it is about strengthening the main pillars of democratic governance and rule of law to secure the future of the country". He said "such public funds would rid parties of one individual or group of persons and faceless financiers, who by virtue of funding, either stifle opposition, discount contrary views and suggestion, take decisions without consultation and generally manage the party dictatorially".

Pro Kumado said 93a party funded by an individual becomes dictatorial and can undermine multiparty democratic system of governance with narrow agenda not necessarily in consonance with the public good=94.

The Law Lecturer argued that State funding of parties would also strengthen its internal structures to enable them to focus on the role of public education, dissemination of political information and generally raise political awareness of the citizenry. It would also encourage the minority parties with relevant or alternative national programmes, to work hard to have national coverage to qualify for funding.

Ultimately, when the parties become strong enough to work effectively in the regions and districts, they would enrich political debate and enhance political awareness of the citizenry. Prof Kumado suggested the establishment of proper structures and carefully thought-out sources to feed the fund; processes for qualification; time for sourcing of the fund and implementation, monitoring and evaluation mechanism.

He said the relevant peace and security, which the country was enjoying, was attained at the high cost of the lives of some citizens, under authoritarian regimes.

Today, under multi-party democratic governance there is freedom as well as choice... to be able to function very effectively, they need to be empowered, and finance was a top priority need. Mr Daniel Botwe, former General Secretary of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) said the problem of the parties and their inability to muster adequate resources to operate effectively "must be a collective worry of us all and not a challenge to the individual parties alone".

He said at present all the registered parties were not capable of maintaining offices and staff as required by law, let alone ensuring a meaningful monitoring of their own programmes or political activities. Mr Botwe said some of the parties, for lack of resources were unable to dialogue with the electorate during campaigning beyond whistle stops.

He said money could distort the choice of options available to the electorate, explaining that the idea of some funding of political parties was to spread resources to ensure an even playing ground. He said public funding would also enhance access to political positions by those with the competency, and thereby reduce manipulation of appointments by party financiers.

Mr Botwe, who was immediate past Minister of Information, said public funding of political parties might be a more beneficial support for the parties to achieve their goals than the edict for fair opportunities in the State media.