The Regulation of Electoral Campaigns
Political Party Financing
The funding of political parties is an old controversy that has not yet been resolved in Senegal. In 1984, the then-opposition politician Abdoulaye Wade had asked the Chair of the National Assembly to have the legislature initiate a law providing a formal status to the opposition and for the financing of political parties. Despite the eventual concession and good will of President Abdou Diouf in appointing Professor Elhadji M’Bodji (a prominent law professor) as Mediator (by decree no 98-657 of August 7, 1998) to attempt to favorably resolve the issue, and in spite of the often vigorous debates on the issue during Abdoulaye Wade’s presidency, the funding of political parties in Senegal is still unregulated by any law.
The funding of political parties directly by the State is promoted as a way of introducing more transparency, fighting inequalities and the hidden or underground financing of political parties of both the ruling majorities and the opposition. The use of public money to fund political parties is supposed to cover the candidates’ access to media during their electoral campaign, as well as posters and brochures produced for the electoral period, but all other activities should be self-funded from the parties’ own resources. These resources normally accrue from membership fees, income-generating activities and other gains authorized by the law.
The reality is far from such a scenario. Some political parties in fact demonstrate that they dispose of significant financial resources, especially during election periods. The inadequacy of the resources authorized by law to cover the large expenses of political parties has led many to believe that political parties benefit from illicit funding. The opposition accuses the ruling party of using public finances, (especially discretionary funds earmarked for authorities) to fund their political activities, and opposition parties are often accused of benefiting from funding provided by lobbies or by other African heads of states who may not be on good terms with the Senegalese President.
Debates about the funding of political parties
The necessity of funding political parties and the mechanisms through which to implement this support is still widely debated by leaders of political parties, civil society and by academics. Some groups, like the Party for Independence and Labor (PIT) are against any form of public funding to political parties which, in their view, would be inappropriate given the unmet basic needs of much of the populations. But the majority of party leaders agree on the democratic need for such funding, even if they disagree on the mechanisms to achieve this goal. Various proposals have been made taking into account the relative representativeness of parties and the need to avoid party leaders using the funding mechanism for their personal benefit.
Electoral campaign Regulations
In Senegal, The National Audiovisual Regulatory Council (CNRA) is responsible for supervising and controlling public and private audiovisual media and the written press during elections. This mission is carried out on the basis of the provisions of the Electoral Code, laws regulating the media, and regulations established by the CNRA itself. President Abdou Diouf created the High Council for Radio and Television (HCRT) by Law 92-26 of February 7, 1992 which was later replaced by the High Audiovisual Council (HCA), created by Law 98-09 of March 2, 1998. The HCA in turn was replaced by the National Audiovisual Regulation Council (CNRA), created by Law 2006-04 of January 4, 2006. This new institution in charge of regulating audiovisual activities, especially during election periods, saw its prerogatives strengthened in comparison to the HCA. CNRA members have a six-year term in office. Their mandate can neither be renewed nor terminated. These provisions concerning the terms of CNRA members aim at shielding them from pressure and granting them autonomy while they discharge their duties.
The CNRA has the mandate to regulate public and private audiovisual media. Its jurisdiction is extended to print media during electoral periods. Since its inception in 2006, CNRA has regulated the audiovisual media and the written press during all elections held in Senegal. Its jurisdiction includes guaranteeing fair access to state-owned media by all candidates, and balanced information in the private media. The CNRA uses a lottery to determine the order of appearance of candidates on the national television’s “Journal de la campagne”, (coverage of candidates’ campaign activities), thus guaranteeing free and equal time to all presidential candidates and to all lists of candidates to legislative elections.
In its role of supervision and control of the media during elections, CNRA has often issued injunctions and even sanctions against media sources that it deems to have violated the law governing the works of journalists, especially article LO.63 of the Electoral Code. These injunctions, however, reveal the limits of the CNRA; media organizations do not always comply with the injunctions issued, and worse, some of them denounce the decisions taken by CNRA against them. On March 18, 2012, the private television station TFM decided to re-broadcast a show featuring its owner, the noted singer Youssou N’Dour, who was campaigning for candidate Macky Sall in the second round of the presidential election. The station did not respect the requirement to feature a representative of the outgoing candidate, an example of the difficulties for the CNRA to enforce its decisions. Indeed, following the first broadcasting of the show on March 10, 2012, the CNRA had condemned the action and asked TFM to grant the same privileges to the other candidate, in order to fulfill the need to provide balanced time for the two campaigns. The purchase of media time during the electoral campaign is also strictly prohibited, however, the injunctions of the CNRA never prevented private TV stations from in fact doing so. To these deficiencies should be added the loopholes, and the silence of the law regarding the time between the first and second rounds of the election, as well as the lack of legal recourse when the media ignore the CNRA’s decisions. All this points to the only relative efficacy of this body in charge of controlling and supervising audiovisual media and the written press during electoral competitions.
Useful links and documentary resources
Poster of Macky Sall (the current president of Senegal) during the February 2012 presidential election