Ghana’s democratic journey has been remarkable, having been consistently held up as a model for peace, stability and transparency within the West African Sub-Region and African continent at large. However, to truly advance this democratic narrative, it’s essential that some barriers impeding diverse participation are dismantled. The high filing fees for presidential and parliamentary candidates have often been cited as one such barrier, particularly for the youth. This article is an appeal to the Electoral Commission of Ghana to revisit and adjust this fee structure to give some respite to the youth.
Fact speaking, the Ghanaian youth an underrated asset, comprising a vast segment of Ghana’s population and about 55.1% of the total voting population, the youth are brimming with the energy and innovative thinking that can drive the nation forward. Their modern perspectives, connectedness to global trends, and unparalleled digital fluency make them invaluable for the digital age. Yet, despite their potential, financial constraints in the political domain often sideline them.
The Financial Hurdles: Echoing the Bigger Issue
The current filing fees, set at a level meant to filter out non-serious candidates, inadvertently become a wealth test. This becomes a disincentive to many promising young Ghanaians who are shut out from contributing to their nation’s political journey.
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Making the issue more relatable, The African Youth Charter and the National Youth Authority Act 2016 (Act 939) measures the youth age from 15 to 35 years, meanwhile, people in these age bracket have usually just finished university and have worked only a few years or are unemployed. With the average minimum wage in Ghana at a wavering GHC14.88, it is almost impossible for young people to be able to raise the huge amounts of money charged by political parties and the Electoral Commission for filing fees. As such, young, talented, knowledge-filled, well-updated, visionary people in Ghana find it challenging to raise funds to file their applications to allow them contest in national elections. As this is common knowledge to almost every Ghanaian, these young people have to take loans, and find other forms of support just for a successful political journey. This leaves the question which many people fear to ask, “How do they pay back these loans”? Can this, give us a clue as to why corruption in the political space and governance start? Something has to be done about filling fees in our democratic journey by reducing monetization in our politics.
The filing fee is a very important issue to talk about and act upon as soon as possible because a more inclusive fee structure breeds several benefits to the nation as a whole;
Firstly, it promotes a diverse candidate pool: By reducing fees, Ghana could see a surge in youthful candidates from varied backgrounds, ideas, and sustainable plans. This is evident in countries like New Zealand and Canada, where efforts were made to reduce barriers for youth political participation, have seen fresh faces and ideas permeating their political discourse. This diverse candidature improves fresh perspectives, which provides room for better understanding of the people and the issues concerning all areas of the country’s well-being. Lessons can be drawn from a young candidate like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, who has shown how youth can bring transformative ideas to the table, ranging from environmental concerns to digital rights.
Also, it will cause a boost in youth participation: Beyond just encouraging candidature, reduced fees signal to the youth that their voices matter. Meaningful young participation has proven over time to be a major drive to national and global development. Countries like India, with its dynamic student political scene, has shown how youth involvement can shape policies that are future-oriented.
In light of this, this article proposes few ways through which a more inclusive democracy, especially for the youth can be achieved. These include the following;
Tiered Fee Structure: Just as tax slabs function, age-based filing fee tiers can be a solution. Younger candidates could be incentivized with more modest fees, gradually increasing with age.
Youth Empowerment Funds: Drawing inspiration from countries like Sweden, which invest in youth political education and participation, Ghana could earmark funds to aid young aspirants.
Merit-Based Fee Waivers: Young leaders who have excelled in thier chosen fields of endeavour like community service, academics, or entrepreneurship could be given waivers or significant reductions. This ensures that the nation is not just getting youthful leaders but the best of them.
Sponsorship and Crowdfunding Education: Training potential young candidates on the art of gaining sponsorships or leveraging platforms like GoFundMe can democratize campaign finance, drawing parallels with how Barack Obama utilized small donations in his 2008 presidential campaign.
Ghana stands at a pivotal juncture. By revisiting barriers like the filing fee, it can catalyse a youth-led political renaissance. A democracy is only as robust as the diversity of voices it accommodates. It is high time that Ghana’s young voices were not just heard but amplified. The Electoral Commission has both an opportunity and a responsibility to make this vision a reality, as it will as well go a long way to reduce corruption, which is crippling the country.
By Karifa Issifu Mohammed, Issah Armed, and Kelvin Boame
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