Ghana: voter apathy gives rise to ′vote selling′ | Africa | DW | 01.12.2016
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Ghana: voter apathy gives rise to 'vote selling'

It's not uncommon in Ghana for presidential aspirants to buy electoral ballots. But as the country heads to the polls next Wednesday, some Ghanaians are demanding money for votes despite a campaign to stop the practice.

"I will sell it if I find someone to buy," Abudu, a resident in Tamale told DW. "Honestly [votes] are up for sale right now, so I'm looking for someone to buy mine because after voting you won't see these politicians anywhere."

Voter apathy in Ghana has turned into a lucrative business in this year's general elections. In the previous elections, presidential aspirants used to offer large sums secretly in return for ballots in their favor. Now, the tide seems to have turned. Many dissatisfied voters are putting their votes up for sale.

"I will sell my vote for 1000 Cedis ($133 or approximately 125 euros) because I don't believe in anybody, who will become president," another Tamale resident, Kweku, said.

Democracy at stake

Paul Osei Kuffour, who works with the Center for Democratic Development (CDD) in Tamale, described the new trend as a slap in the face for the country's governance system.

Wiederwahl John Mahama in Ghana (Reuters)

Incumbent President John D. Mahama is seeking re-election

"Why will you sell your vote? Or why should you allow your vote to be bought? It's an affront to democracy," Kuffour told DW. "That means the type of political leaders you elect may not reflect the genuine interest and choices of the general masses."

Last week, a popular local politician was on the streets of Tamale distributing cash and printed clothing materials. "These leaders make promises they cannot fulfill," said Nabari Abdullai, an elder in Tamale. "If a politician comes to the voter again without fulfilling promises, the voter will say, 'if you don't give me money I won't vote for you again.'"

Under Ghana's public representation law, it is an offense to offer bribe in return for support in a bid for a public office. Stephen Azantilow from Ghana's Human Rights Commission and Administrative Justice said this is a clear "violation of the rules" and leads to mismanagement of public offices.

Ghana Wahlkampf (Reuters)

Opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo is seeking the presidency for the third time

"At the end of it all, you don't get the required, qualified or competent people into offices to run the affairs of this country," Azantilow said. "And the country suffers, all aspects of our lives, politically, socially, economically, also suffer."

Sensitization campaign against vote selling

Pro-democracy activists have launched a campaign known as "I will not sell my vote". They hope that such an initiative will help to sensitize people about the impacts of selling votes. "Election is a tool for accountability and if, in doing so, the system is corrupted, it undermines the legitimacy of people who may be elected into political office," said Kuffor from CDD, one of the leaders of the campaign. 

Vote selling is an age-old problem in Ghana but not all registered voters wants to sell their votes. One of them is Nurudeen Usman, who said he will cast his vote on Election Day for a candidate that appeals to him.

"I will cast my vote base on the development and the promises the person is making which will help the nation to move forward," Usman said.

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