The Electoral Commission (EC) has given the strongest indication yet that it will not relent in its effort to enforce the provisions of the Political Parties Act, 2000 (Act 574) to ensure that all political parties play to the rules of the game.
Act 574 requires that political parties must have nationwide presence, including having offices at the national and regional levels and in two-thirds of districts across the country.
In spite of the law, there are growing concerns that the EC has held back the whip on political parties which are widely perceived not to have met the requirements of the law to operate.
The concerns are grounded on the fact that some of the political parties show up during elections, only to fold up their activities after such national exercises.
In an effort to enforce the law and sanitise the system, the EC yesterday deployed its officials to all the 10 previously existing regions in the country to inspect the offices of political parties and also check on their activities.
The Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation at the EC, Mr Isaac Kofi Asomaning, who spoke to the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, said the move followed completion of the inspection of the head offices of the political parties in Accra early this month.
He said the inspection exercise in Accra had been successful, except that some of the parties had relocated their national offices out of Accra, for which reason the commission was yet to inspect those facilities.
Although he declined to mention those parties which had relocated their national offices outside Accra, on the grounds that the exercise was still ongoing, he gave an assurance that all steps were being taken to follow up on those national offices located outside Accra.
“We inspected the national offices of the political parties last two weeks and it was largely successful; but there were a few parties that we could not meet because they had relocated their national offices outside Accra. So the team that has been deployed to the regions will also check on the national party offices sited outside Accra,” he said.
Mr Asomaning added that officials of the EC would also inspect the regional and district offices of the political parties over the next five days, after which a report would be put together to determine the next line of action.
He said the EC officials were not out to witch-hunt any political party but ensure that the provisions of Act 574 were followed to the letter.
“We want to see if the parties are functioning and if they meet the requirements by Act 574, which include the fact that they should have functioning offices, file their accounts at the EC and whether their offices are owned by them or rented,” he said.
When asked about the number of political parties that the EC was dealing with in the exercise, he said “we are looking at 20 of them, but technically there are 25 political parties because although some of them are no longer functioning, their names have not been struck out of our books”.
He declined to comment on the status of the political parties that had not filed their financial accounts as required by law, except to say that at the appropriate time the EC would come out with clear statements on the issue.
The Political Parties Act, 2000 (Act 574) mandates political parties to have offices at the national and regional levels and at least in two-thirds of the districts in the country.
However, a 2015 report by the EC showed that out of the 23 political parties that had registered with the commission, only the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) met the physical presence requirement in at least 144 of the 216 districts.
The report cited the Convention People’s Party (CPP), the People’s National Convention (PNC), the National Democratic Party (NDP), the National Reform Party (NRP), the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) and other parties as not meeting that requirement.
It said it found a trend where some offices alleged to belong to the parties were not even painted in party colours.
Predictably, the 2015 report said the NDC and the NPP had 195 and 200 district offices, respectively.
Following that report, a number of civil society organisations and governance institutions called on the EC to fully sanction the political parties for non-compliance with Act 574.