Send a bill to Parliament to Criminalize internal Party Vote-buying – Occupy Ghana urges Attorney-General

Pressure group, Occupy Ghana also known as Occupy Flagstaff House has written to the Attorney-General & Minister of Justice urging them to prepare a bill to be sent to parliament to criminalize vote-buying in internal party elections.

According to has Occupy Ghana, they have “taken note of the several reports of vote buying at internal political party elections and primaries since the inception of the Fourth Republican Constitution. The phenomenon seems to be getting worse with every election cycle when politicians raise funds simply to distribute to party delegates either in cash or in kind, in exchange for their votes” and that to curb this vote buying that have taken over Politics in the country, a law is needed to be enacted to Criminalize the act.

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BELOW IS THE LETTER FROM OCCUPY GHANA TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

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27th July 2020

The Attorney-General & Minister of Justice
Attorney-General’s Department
Accra

Dear Madam:

REQUEST FOR BILL TO CRIMINALISE VOTE-BUYING AT INTERNAL PARTY ELECTIONS AND PRIMARIES

OccupyGhana®️ is convinced that it is time to bring to an end, the pervasive phenomenon of vote-buying at internal party elections to elect party officers and party primaries to elect candidates for general elections. To this end, we write to respectfully invite you to consider preparing and then sending a bill to Parliament that criminalises such vote-buying in the manner that is provided under Part IV, Chapter 5 of the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), Part II of the Referendum Act, 1977 (SMCD 143) and Part V of the Representation of the People Act, 1992 (PNDCL 284).

OccupyGhana®️ has taken note of the several reports of vote buying at internal political party elections and primaries since the inception of the Fourth Republican Constitution. The phenomenon seems to be getting worse with every election cycle when politicians raise funds simply to distribute to party delegates either in cash or in kind, in exchange for their votes. It has gotten to a stage where it is the highest bidder who wins internal elections and primaries, which have become the ‘cocoa season’ for those fortunate to be selected as delegates.

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We are concerned that this is prevalent probably because there appears to be no law that specifically criminalises vote-buying at internal elections and primaries. The provisions against vote-buying and related offences in Act 29, SMCD 143 and PNDCL 284 are specifically targeted at public elections and referenda, and by definition do not extend to internal elections and primaries. For instance, section 3(5) of Act 29 says ‘the expression “public election” shall be construed by reference to article 49 of the Constitution, and includes an election the qualification for voting at which, or the mode of voting at which, is determined or regulated by an enactment.’ Section 50 of PNDCL 284 simply says ‘“election” means any public election.’ Even section 11 of the more recent Vigilantism and Related Offences Act, 2019 (Act 999) defines ‘public election’ by reference to ‘general, presidential and district level elections and referenda conducted or supervised by the Electoral Commission.’

Although it is arguable that the definition in Act 999 may apply to internal elections and primaries because they are supervised by the Electoral Commission, it does not go far enough. This is because under article 19(11) of the Constitution, an act is not a crime until it is specifically provided as such in written law with a specifically prescribed punishment.

The current lacuna in the law cannot continue. For starters, article 55(5) of the Constitution demands that political parties must be run along democratic lines. Specifically, it says ‘the internal organisation of a political party shall conform to democratic principles and its actions and purposes shall not contravene or be inconsistent with this Constitution or any other law.’ OccupyGhana®️ believes that there is nothing that is more blatantly undemocratic than the sheer bastardisation of democracy that is the naked buying of votes. It is time for Ghana to make it clear that this will not be tolerated any more in our democratic dispensation.

While we do not think that simply criminalising vote-buying will make people stop doing it, we think that the specific criminalisation will send a clear message to current and future perpetrators that, at the very least, Ghana frowns on those acts and is willing to punish those who engage in them. It will also serve as a clear message that if they are caught, the law will deal with them.

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We do not think that Ghana requires any massive legislative amendments to achieve this. We could achieve this by extending the current definition of ‘public elections’ to cover internal elections and primaries, so that the criminalising provisions under Part IV, Chapter 5 of Act 29 and Part V of PNDCL 284 would apply. Alternatively, we may consider a standalone legislation that regulates such internal elections and primaries and criminalises vote-buying among others.

It is on the bases of all the foregoing that we write to respectfully request that you consider preparing the relevant bill on this matter and submit it to Parliament for passage into law.

Yours in the service of God and Country

OccupyGhana®️

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