Reintroducing The Impermeable Impediment To Women Political Representation: The Increasing Monetization Of Political Party Primaries In Africa

The impact of the monetization of politics in Africa could be seen as not only gradually derailing efforts to counter corruption on the continent but also tend to close political spaces to a significant number of African women.

The raising of consciousness on power inequalities between men and women by feminist advocacy groups has led to the adoption of gender quotas in aim of achieving and ensuring equal political opportunities for women, representation of women’s interests, better democracy and fulfilling some of the contemporary notions or elements of good governance such of equality and fairness.

Not only are old democracies adopting these quotas, emerging democracies are gradually championing this agenda. A considerable number of countries who have not yet institutionalize any form of gender quota systems are exploring ways in which the obstacles to women political participation at all levels could be eliminated.

Seminal contributions have been made by researchers working on issues concerning women political participation. A series of recent studies have established that gender quotas, when implemented under favorable conditions have the potency of breaking up male dominance and monopoly in political offices. In Rwanda, quotas led to gender parity in the legislature, at a critical time in that country’s history.

It would not be uncommon for one to get surprised at the number of women legislators in the Rwandan parliament, especially with regards to considering a country which had gone through a socially and politically-destabilizing civil war and genocide. Rwanda has been commended for not only the rapid pace through which it had recovered from the genocide, but the significant progress it has made in economic circles and in the advancement of women- friendly policies. Ghana is yet to adopt any form of gender quota system.

Women comprises 51.2% of Ghana’s population according to a 2017 UNDP report. The Fourth Republic of Ghana has seen the rise of women to key positions in all the three arms of government and as an example the head of the judicial arm of government currently being a woman. Nonetheless, their numbers in the entire Ghanaian political decision-making process have not been encouraging.

Ghana’s parliament has not seen a consistent rise of female parliamentarians. Out of the total of 275 members of Ghana’s 7th parliament, it can only boast of only 37 female parliamentarians from both the minority and majority sides. Despite the wave of increased women political participation in Eastern and Southern Africa amid global empowerment campaigns, Ghana’s case may be considered leapfrogging as far as women participation is concerned.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC), which is the largest opposition party in Ghana, at the time of writing this piece is lacing its boots to conduct its presidential primaries to elect a flagbearer for the 2020 Elections. The filing fee for a flagbearer aspirant was initially pegged at GHC400,000 for male aspirants and GHC200,000 for female aspirants but upon consistent pressure from the party elders and the presidential hopefuls themselves, it was then brought down to GHC300,000 and GHC150,000 for male and female aspirants respectively.

While the national leaders were the target of consistent backlash for raising the fee in order to favor a particular candidate, the General Secretary of the party debunked such allegations and his justification, stressed the need to raise much-needed funds to successfully conduct the primaries and then to further utilize them to finance the 2020 electioneering campaign. On the face of it, this reason is justifiable but more deeply, it raises the utmost question or concern of how high levels of party nomination fees correlates with the caliber of final candidates we are likely to see during the party primaries.

With regulated corporate election-campaign finance not being a common practice in Africa, there might be the higher likelihood of ordinary politicians with the aspiration of running for the high office of the president, to amass wealth through corrupt practices in any governmental position they find themselves, in order to have the necessary financial resources should they decide to start embarking on such political aims. To a very high extent, these tendencies tend to derail the efforts to counter corruption which has been a significant obstacle to the socio-economic development of the continent.

With the absence of gender quota systems in the context of Ghanaian politics, the high amounts of parliamentary and presidential filing fees make it even more difficult for under-resourced women to permeate financial barriers to political participation ranging from local and district level elections to parliamentary and presidential elections. As indicated earlier, while this exorbitant fee, as indicated by the NDC’s National Executive Council (NEC) are not purposely set to sieve or filter the candidates expected to be seen and voted on at the primaries, it nevertheless might tend to filter the caliber of personality, economic status and gender of aspirants.

It has been quite established in research or academic discourse that in the African context, the low and unfavorable levels of financial capacities of women have been a significant factor which derails women political participation, and in cases such factors interacting with unfavorable social and traditional conditions which cast a demeaning role of the African woman relative to a man as far as political leadership is concerned; and with these conditions which had not been completely eliminated, it is incumbent on political gatekeepers to take steps which do not compound the already identified impediments to women political participation.

In a similar case with Nigeria’s preparation towards the 2019 presidential elections, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) which are the two main political parties asked election hopefuls to pay huge fees for them to stand the chance of competing in the general election on the ticket of the parties. The parties’ decisions drew wide criticisms from the people arguing that the move tend to favor the well-connected and financially-endowed citizens.

A 2018 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report published by Transparency International (TI), a global corruption watchdog ranked Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation as among the most corrupt countries in Africa. According to the report, Nigeria which scored 27 ranked 148 of the 180 countries evaluated in 2017, which meant that it was better off than only 32 out of the 180 countries assessed.

In a country reeling in corruption, there is the moral burden on political parties to eliminate practices which tend to exacerbate the problem, and upon which making political processes more affordable is critical. Women make up about 49 per cent of the Nigerian population and data shows nearly one out of four women in sub-Saharan Africa is a Nigerian.

While this presents potential human resources that can be harnessed to enhance economic productivity; the disparities in social and economic opportunities between men and women have never been starker. Nigeria has the lowest number of female parliamentarians in sub-Saharan Africa and ranks 133rd in the world for female political representation. It is thereby non-negotiable to increase efforts to demonetize African politics in order to make filing for political nominations and contests more affordable to African women who have historically been faced with structural problems inhibiting their political participation.

In the African drive to ensure political participation of women, the least phenomenon that should be encouraged is the rising cost to political offices and candidacy and the earlier we discourage it, the better it augments our efforts to lessen corruption in politics and to open up political spaces to all people, especially women, regardless socio-economic standing.

Source: Modern Ghana