The Regulation of Electoral Campaigns
The Charter governing political parties determines the conditions under which political parties are funded. Article 26 of the Charter states that the resources of political parties consist of membership dues, the proceeds from the sale of membership cards, gifts, bequests, income derived from their activities, and subsidies and aid from the State.
Gifts and bequests are reported to the Ministry of Interior within one month and they cannot exceed 50% of the party’s own assets if they originate from a physical person who is a citizen of Niger. They cannot, under any circumstances, exceed 20% of the party’s resources should they originate from abroad. Whatever the origin of these gifts and bequests, they should be reported to the Ministry of Interior within a month. It is strictly prohibited for political parties to receive donations or advertising fees from public corporations in Niger (Article 28 of the Political Parties Charter).
Political parties that satisfy the conditions listed below are entitled to state subsidies. The subsidy is 0.30% of the country’s annual fiscal revenues. The conditions for receiving state subsidies are as follows:
- justify that the party’s decision making bodies meet on a regular basis;
- present proof delivered by the Financial Court (Court that audits government and institutions that receive public funding) regarding the sincerity of the party’s accounting;
- justify the origin and use of the party’s resources;
- present a statement of all the assets of the party;
- provide proof of participation in the last elections;
- produce a statement of the patrimony of the members of the party’s leading body;
- present an annual report of the party’s activities.
Political parties must also strictly comply with the rules governing the use of these subsidies; 50% of received funds should be earmarked for the party’s operating costs, 30% for training, and 20% for miscellaneous (Article 30 of the Political Parties Charter).
The subsidy (0.30% of annual fiscal revenues of Niger) is distributed as follows:
- 50% to parties represented at the National Assembly, proportionally to the number of elected members they have in the Assembly;
- 50% to parties that have elected counselors, proportionally to the number of elected counselors they have.
Large parties represented at the National Assembly benefit mainly from the state’s subsidies. Generally, these parties also have the largest number of elected municipal counselors. The small parties that are not capable of having elected members at the National Assembly or elected counselors are largely excluded from the subsidy.
The regulation of the financing of political parties is necessary because during electoral campaigns the amount of money spent by some parties lead some to wonder if they have access to illicit resources. In reality, it is very difficult to verify the origin of the funding of parties (which often include major business retailers), especially if they operate in the informal sector of the economy. The conditions for the distribution of state subsidies to political parties are important. They require party leaders to disclose their assets, including the President of the Republic, ministers, and those who preside over the highest institutions of the State.
The debate among political leaders on the funding of political parties led to a draft law submitted by the Permanent Secretariat of the CNDP (National Council on Political Dialogue), which may revise the manner in which allocated funds are to be spent. The new draft law suggests that 45% of the funds be allocated to parties represented at the National Assembly, proportionally to their number of elected members of Parliament; 35% to parties that have elected counselors, proportionally to their number of elected counselors; and 20% to political parties that are legally established. This reform would allow political parties that are not represented at the National Assembly or on Municipal Councils to have access to subsidies, provided that they comply with the law. However, it is feared that new political parties will be created just for the sake of having access to these state subsidies.
The electoral campaign
The electoral campaign is regulated by the Articles 53 to 63 of the Electoral Code. The legally established durations of electoral campaigns are 14 days for a referendum, 21 days for legislative and presidential elections, and 10 days for regional and municipal elections (Article 53 of the Electoral Code). In order to avoid disguised or disloyal electoral campaigns, there are provisions in the law prohibiting any forms of electoral propaganda (for example, rallies or public declarations of endorsement) conducted outside the legally defined periods of campaign (Article 54 of the Electoral Code). After the issuance of the decree setting the date of elections, it is also prohibited for government authorities to undertake, in any part of the national territory, any form of visits that might be labeled economic or social tours, or any other form of event that might provide opportunities to these authorities to organize political rallies or make political declarations (Article 54 of the Electoral Code). It is also prohibited from using the resources of the State or of state companies, agencies, programs and projects, public enterprises, and local governments to undertake electoral campaigns (Article 62 of the Electoral Code). Given the influence they wield, traditional authorities are also prohibited from undertaking campaigns to influence the choice of voters (Article 63 of the Electoral Code).
The participation of administrative and traditional authorities in electoral campaigns as well as the use of state means during such campaigns has always been denounced by various opposition parties, but a definitive solution has yet to be found, despite the existence of legal provisions and sanctions. It is the Ministry of Interior and the authority in charge of communication, the National Communication Observatory, which are supposed to enforce these prohibitions. However, although they often find it difficult to enforce the law in these areas, this debate has not been raised at the CNDP because all political parties aspire to be in power one day and take advantage of these opportunities.
Access to state media
The National Communication Observatory (ONC) is responsible for regulating access of political parties and independent candidates to state media during electoral campaigns. The ONC’s jurisdiction includes, “determining the rules regarding the conditions for the production, scheduling and broadcasting of official media shows during electoral campaigns.” Article 37 of the Charter governing political parties states, “during the electoral campaign, all political parties shall have equal access to public media for the broadcasting of their statements, and the coverage of their rallies as well as the activities of their national, regional, departmental, and municipal branches, in compliance with prevailing laws and regulations.”
In practice, the ONC has, in relation with political parties, defined the various forms of electoral propaganda. As a result, there was no debate about determining events that would labeled as such. However, depending on their means, political parties and/or candidates may use private media (there are more than ten TV stations and thirty radio stations in Niger) and pay state media to have their shows rebroadcast in order to gain name recognition.