Agitation for state funding of political parties appears to have become a recurring decimal that refuses to vamoose. No matter how heavily it is suppressed, it keeps popping up like a cork. It sprouted all over the place in the run-up to the 2012 general elections bur fizzled out in the controversy that engulfed the presidential election results.
Now the Institute for Democratic Governance has lent its support to a call for the setting up of a National Fund for Political Parties in a resurrection of the debate, incorporating some new ideas about the sources of funding and management structure for the fund. A brainchild of the Civic Forum Initiative, the NFPP will derive its funding from both government and the private sector corporate organisations and institutions.
The CFI envisages that the NFPP when set up would be run by an independent administrator along the lines of the GETFund so as to allay fears that government would control the fund to the detriment of other contending political parties. "The appointed administrator should operate under strict guidelines prescribed by Parliament as to how the funds should be disbursed", suggested Major-General Nii Carl Coleman, CFI Chairman at a National Interest Dialogue on Multi-party Governance and Constitutional Reforms organized by IDEG.
He believed the NFPP would transform our political parties from their current status as "electoral machines" into national institutions pre-occupied with developmental issues. "Our political parties do not have strong research departments and so, more often than not, did not take care in crafting their manifestoes to reflect the real development needs of the people. The fund will help political parties establish strong research departments and organize their annual conferences... and drafting manifestoes that could be incorporated into the national development plan... " Coleman said.
The Chronicle thinks that in the light of our experiences surrounding Election 2012, state funding of political parties is an idea whose time may have come. If it were already in practice any money due the National Democratic Congress after winning the elections would have been forfeited and paid into the Consolidated Fund in part payment of the unbudgeted GH¢8.7 billion that the NDC frittered away on the election which is the major cause of our current economic crisis or challenges.
In fact, The Chronicle calls on Parliament to include a requirement in the guidelines for the NFPP that any government in power who spends state funds above a certain ceiling in an election year forfeits its entitlement from the fund. We also recommend that the NFPP when it becomes a reality should be disbursed to the political parties in two tranches: The first tranche, before the elections, should be on the basis of equality of parties and be a flat rate for all registered political parties.
The second tranche, after the elections, will be based on performance and payable only to political parties who score at least five percent of the total votes cast in the elections. The do-and-die that is creeping into Ghana politics is because of the billions often borrowed to fight the elections and which losing parties have no assured means of recouping. The second tranche from the NFPP will smoothen some of the ruffled feathers of the opposition parties. It will also loosen the tyrannical hold that so-called "party financiers" wield over the parties that are indebted to them. It will stop some of their deafening loudness! And give all of us some peace of mind!