The Network for Free and Fair Elections (Fafen) has called on parliament and political parties to strengthen regulations on political finance to reduce the role of money in elections, which has virtually deprived the majority of the population exercise of his right to stand for election.
Fafen urged the political parties represented in parliament and
those outside to develop consensus on critical electoral reforms
including those required to regulate the use of money in elections.
The 2017 electoral law contains weak provisions to regulate political financing, which encouraged the excessive use of money in the 2018 general elections and subsequent by-elections and local elections, Fafen said.
Meaningful reforms to regulate election spending and political financing are imperative to bolster public confidence in democratic rule, he added.
Fafen viewed the Election Commission’s recent order on the banned funding case as a call for stronger legal and regulatory controls over party accounts and sources of funding, as well as provisions requiring the Commission to annually review verified statements from political parties.
Timely scrutiny is a prerequisite for political parties to be more diligent about their accounts and funding sources.
Fafen also recommended strengthening the legal framework to regulate expenses incurred in an election by contesting candidates and political parties, and the timely review of assets and liabilities submitted by members of parliament and provincial assemblies.
Any submission or withholding of false or materially incorrect information shall be criminalized with punitive implications, including disqualification.
The current provisions of the 2017 Elections Act do not clearly define election expenses or provide any implications for someone incurring election expenses on behalf of a candidate without the candidate’s permission, Fafen noted.
While the law specifies the maximum limit on election expenses for contesting candidates, there is no such prohibition for political parties, making it difficult for the Commission to control any extravagant expenses for an election campaign.
To regulate campaign financing by political parties, Fafen suggested introducing into the law provisions clearly defining the campaign expenditures allowed by political parties, the maximum limit for these
expenses, the method of filing and checking the declarations of these expenses,
and the implication of delay, non-filing or misrepresentation in returns.
The Electoral Network recommended specifying in the Elections Act, 2017 the period during which any expense incurred would be considered an election expense. Additionally, the law should criminalize spending on behalf of a candidate without explicit authorization.
Submitting false election expense reports or withholding any information should result in the disqualification of the elected candidate.
The ECP should be legally obliged to publish the financial statements of members and political parties on its website for free public consultation.
Parliament and political parties may also consider introducing additional restrictions to limit the use of money in elections, such as a complete ban on election day campaigning, public gatherings and the use of promotional material such as panaflexes and billboards, as well as measures to control vote buying. and campaigning on social media.
Minimalist campaigns would allow ordinary citizens with meager
incomes to run for office, especially women, people with disabilities and transgender people, as they are already on the margins of social and economic strata.