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Corrupt practices and elections

BY: Mawuli Avutor

Elections constitute one of the key pillars of a vibrant democracy, where leaders assume power following transparent, free, fair and competitive polls.

Regrettably, these processes are plagued by irregularities and corruption, resulting in armed conflicts in many African countries.

Usually, citizens’ rights to participate in the electoral process are corruptly influenced, limiting their free choice of a candidate.

Corruption is the abuse of an entrusted office for private gain and elections have also become one of the biggest sources of corruption.

When campaign financing far exceeds what candidates can afford, winning candidates are usually eager to get back their investments.

Some of the manifestations of political corruption are the following:

Bribery

Section 33 of The Representation of the People Law, 1992 (PNDCL 284) as amended states:

 A person commits the offence of bribery (a) if he directly or acting through another person:

(i)  gives money or obtains an office for a voter in order to induce the voter to vote or refrain from voting; or

(ii)  corruptly does such an act on account of a voter having voted or refrained from voting; or

(iii) makes a gift or provides something of value to a voter to induce the voter to vote in a certain way or to obtain the election of a candidate; or

(b) if after an election he directly or through another person receives money or valuable consideration on account of a person having voted or refrained from voting or having induced another person to vote or to refrain from voting:

Treating

Section 34 of the law (PNDC Law 284) provides that: “A person commits the offence of treating—

(a) if he corruptly either himself or through another person, before, during or after an election gives or provides or pays wholly or in part the expenses of giving or providing meat, drink, entertainment or provision to or for any person —

(i) for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or another person to vote or refrain from voting; or

 (ii) on account of that person or another person having voted or refrained from voting or being about to vote or refrain from voting; or

(b) if he corruptly accepts or takes any meat, drink, entertainment or provision offered in the circumstances and for the purposes mentioned in paragraph (a) of this section:

Incumbency abuse

This involves the use of state resources not available to any other candidate to aid an incumbent running for re-election. It encompasses the use of — public funds or resources to pay campaign expenses, including travel, publication, salaries; government employees performing campaign tasks; government development projects passed off as party projects for votes; the busing of voters to the polls; special favours to people in return for votes; vote buying: distributing money or material resources to potential voters; illegal voter registration and patronage: power to control appointment to office or the right to privileges.

Experiences

Ghana’s elections since 1992 have been characterised by allegations of abuse of incumbency, bloated voters register, patronage, vote buying and buying of election officials during party primaries and general elections.

All these are forms of corruption in election which violate the right to vote and the free functioning of the electoral process.

Penalties

To deal with these challenges, Section 41 of PNDCL 284 provides that:

A person convicted of the offence of personation, bribery, treating or undue influence, under sections 32, 33, 34 or 35 of this Law, shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding GH¢1million or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or both; and shall for a period of five years after the date of the expiration of his term of imprisonment be disqualified from being registered as a voter or voting at a public election.

Voters should, therefore, be allowed to form their opinions independently without any manipulative interferences of any kind.

There is also the need to improve procedures and transparency and strengthen the chances of acceptance of the outcome of an election by competing parties and the citizens.

 

The writer is with the Public Education Department, CHRAJ