Vote-buying ‘rocks’ parliament
Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday debated passionately about the issue of vote-buying at parliamentary primaries and elections at the national level.
This was after the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Kumbungu, Ras Mubarak, raised the issue in a statement made on the floor of Parliament.
According to the MP, who lost the parliamentary primary in his constituency in the Northern Region, there should be ‘fast-tracked’ legislation by Parliament to outlaw all forms of inducement that would have direct effect on voting in any elections.
He said the issue of offering of gifts should also be put in the right perspective because the Internal Revenue Act 529 stipulates that Ghanaians are to pay 15 per cent gift tax on any gift valued at GH¢50 or above.
“How many of us can hold our heads up and say we have complied with this provision in the Act or how many of our constituents who have received bicycles, motorbikes, mobile phones, television sets, clothes, gas cylinders and other items can say they have to pay the necessary taxes on such gifts?” he queried.
He gave an example in Japan where recently the Japanese Minister of Trade was forced to resign from his position because he had gone to give gifts such as oranges, watermelons and royal jelly valued at $185 to his constituents and wondered whether this could have happened in Ghana.
The NDC MP for Ningo-Prampram, Sam George, said he was surprised his colleague was raising such an issue at this particular moment to create the impression that some people were bribed to vote in the primaries.
According to him, the Ghanaian culture is completely different from the Japanese culture and that gift-giving has become ‘culturally acceptable’ as a form of showing appreciation to someone or expressing love to someone.
He said that the impression should not be created that if an MP pays the school fees of a needy constituent or foots the hospital bill of a needy constituent, then he is trying to induce the person to vote for him or her.
The Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye, however, advised the Ningo-Prampram MP to see the issue as ‘very critical’ to reduce corruption, stressing that the issue of funding for political campaign and elections should be discussed dispassionately.
The First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joseph Osei-Owusu, said he had always campaigned against monetization of democracy.
According to him, political parties in Ghana must be allowed to select their own parliamentary candidates based on the contributions the person has made towards the greater good of the party but said ‘vote-buying’ is still an issue.
He, therefore, called on the two main political parties to rethink how their candidates are selected.
The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, underscored the need for public education on the actual role of MPs to reduce the monetization of our democracy.
After the debate, the statement by the Kumbungu MP was referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for broader consultation.