The Regulation of Electoral Campaigns
The legal framework: what the law says about funding political parties?
Article 29 of the Political Parties Charter stipulates that political parties may receive financial support from the Government’s budget equal to 0.25% of the country’s fiscal revenue. The General Office of Elections (DGE) is responsible for managing public funds for political parties.
In order to be eligible to receive public funding, political parties must fulfill a number of obligations as listed in Article 30 of the Political Parties Charter. They are as follows: the party must meet on a regular basis; it must have a national headquarters exclusively dedicated to the activities of the party; it must have a bank account in a financial institution located in Mali; it must present an annual statement of all its assets to the financial Section of the Supreme Court, by the 31st of March of each calendar year at the latest. Parties must also account for their financial resources and the origin and use of these resources; as stipulated by Article 27 they must demonstrate the ownership of an account, the good standing and sincerity of which are certified by an audit report of the Financial Section of the Supreme Court; and finally the must have participated in the most recent legislative and municipal elections.
What are the mechanisms used to regulate electoral campaigns?
Article 70 of the electoral law stipulates that candidates, political parties, and coalitions of political parties can, for the purpose of their electoral campaigns, use state-owned media (radio, television, and written press). The National Committee for Equal Access to State Media (CNEAME) ensures equal access to all competing candidates, parties and coalitions of parties on state-owned media. CNEAME is an independent entity similar to the CENI.
The law prohibits the following:
- advertising that is commercial by nature, gifts and donations in kind, or money to launch propaganda campaigns with the aim of influencing or attempting to influence voters during an electoral campaign
- the use of goods or means of a public legal entity, institution or organization to achieve the above-mentioned goals
Statements that are insulting or based on libels expressed by any means against one or several candidates or lists of candidates
The Minister of Territorial Administration, the Minister of Security, and other administrative authorities such as the President of the CENI, the presidents of the electoral committees of the districts, “cercles”, and municipalities all have the capacity to enforce the above-mentioned provisions of the law. State representatives in the municipalities and in the District of Bamako allocate an equal space dedicated to all lists of candidates for posting their electoral publicity. Specific areas are designated in each municipality for this purpose. However, the distribution of space designated for the use of electoral publicity by political parties is frequently not observed. The Government announced several proposed reforms regarding this particular issue.
In principle, the use of state media time is allocated on an equal basis from the official start of electoral campaigns. But in reality, political parties organize activities which are covered by both state and private media, well before the official start of the campaign period. This was the case in 2012, as general elections were approaching several political parties and potential candidates were commonly involved in such practices. The CENI issued a press release to condemn such practices and made injunctions. Political parties represented in the cabinet or which have a large number of Members at the National Assembly or Municipal Councils profit from these practices more than smaller parties. This fuels the debate between political and civil society leaders protesting the manipulation of government resources for partisan activities. It is also common to see ministers and members of the National Assembly take advantage of official travel to be involved in activities that can be equated to campaigning. However, it is difficult to distinguish between official duties and electoral campaigning in these cases.
The funding of political parties: the issues up for debate
Although there is no true debate on the funding of political parties, some have raised their voices to be heard on the issue. These discussions typically arise when authorities publish the list of parties eligible to receive such funding. The first issue which is often raised concerns the use of public funds. People are suspicious of the use of public funds because they do not wish to see these funds contribute to the personal wealth of party leaders at the expense of electoral campaigns or the civic education of citizens. This practice explains, to a certain extent, the low level of citizens’ participation in elections. The second point raised relates to the requirements for eligibility to receive funds. They are deemed too difficult to fulfill and can only be met by a minority of parties. Therefore, at the request of some parties and the instruction of the President, relevant authorities take exceptional measures to allow a larger number of parties to obtain public funding. The third and last point in this debate is about reforming the system for allocating public funds to political parties. According to the chair of the Yelena political party, it is necessary to democratize the disbursement of public funds and to decentralize the management of this process. In his view the selection process should be conducted at local levels instead of by the central government.