Sunday, January 24, 2021

Africa: No Transparency – Who Pays for Africa’s Election Campaigns?

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Election campaigns are expensive in Africa, too. Since in many countries there are no government subsidies, the parties depend on private donations. But often there are no legal regulations — a dangerous situation.

Mozambique’s head of state, Filipe Nyusi, wants to know his limits: He will run for a second term in the presidential elections on October 15. The supporters of the FRELIMO party, which has ruled for decades, hope that Nyusi will beat opposition candidate Ossufo Momade.

But Momade’s RENAMO party is also seeing its chances. Although the poor developing country is in the midst of a severe economic crisis, the election campaign is still in full flight.

No transparency

Like many other countries on the continent, Mozambique has a legal system that regulates what state subsidies parties can receive, says Olufunto Akinduro of the South African Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), a non-governmental organization that wants to promote credible and democratic elections throughout Africa.

“But as far as private party donations are concerned, there is uncertainty about the amounts allowed, and there is generally little transparency in the financing process of the parties and their candidates,” said Akinduro in a DW interview.

For a long time, this was also the case in neighboring South Africa. But civil society there eventually had enough of the situation. Various organizations tried to force the parties by court order to publish the names of their donors. Politicians fought back with all their might.

But President Cyril Ramaphosa recently signed a law to regulate the private financing of candidates and their election campaigns.

According to the bill, donations to politicians or their parties should be disclosed starting at 100,000 rand (about €6,000). This rule was not yet in force during the last parliamentary elections in May 2019. Now the suspicion has arisen that Ramaphosa himself raised donations from a controversial entrepreneur. He has promised to allow himself to be interrogated by a commission investigating corrupt practices in South Africa’s politics.

More control needed

Olufunto Akinduro emphasizes that in many African countries there are no regulations in place to monitor the flow of funds to political groups: “There are usually many private donations, and there must be better mechanisms so that money from corruption processes does not flow into political electoral processes,” she says.

At the same time, not enough attention is paid to existing laws, criticizes Magnus Ohman of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), a US non-governmental foundation that, according to its own statements, promotes free elections all over the world.

“Transparency is limited everywhere in the world, but more so in Africa. We do not have official data on who funds the campaigns. However, we know that businessmen and wealthy people, but also people from the diaspora, influence the process,” said Ohman in a DW interview.

Being rich helps with the election

His conclusion: “It really helps to be rich. Compared to Europe, there is a difference. This has to do with the fact that the political parties in Africa have little money. African political parties rely on the funding of their candidates instead of funding them.”

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