It is generally assumed that political financing has been taking place since the days when elections started to be held in the country – as it no doubt would have been the case everywhere else. What is difficult to ascertain are the exact amounts private sector groups have actually offered to political parties. However, the sheer scale of spending that we see during the local political campaigns point to the invisible presence of donors placing heavy bets on their horses. Several high-profile politicians from different countries have had their insider dealings with the private sector uncovered. Few of them have been successfully indicted when in power for having taken political bribes in exchange for favours. It is always difficult to prove the link between the financing received and the favourable policy or administrative decisions taken in the context of the so-called “business-friendly” environment. Thus, there aren’t a lot of resounding cases involving abuse of office.
What may prove even more difficult to ascertain is the nexus between politics and the world of crime – in our case drug trafficking. Although nothing has been proved so far on the strength of compelling evidence that such a nexus does exist, we have had some snippets from the report of the commission of inquiry chaired by former Judge Lam Shang Leen. Proper investigations would have informed us about the extent to which and how far traffickers might have spread their tentacles in the Mauritian governance structures. Since nothing comes free, the quid pro quo in the politics-crime nexus can and will continue to wreak havoc in society – as it did after 1983 when known traffickers were allegedly gaining access to high profile political men.
As far as political financing is concerned, this is an issue that has been debated down the years, but no proposal has so far met unanimity across the political spectrum. To a PQ put by MP Mrs Luchman Roy, last Tuesday, as to whether the government proposes to introduce another Political Financing Bill in the Assembly, the Prime Minister stated that his government will be holding consultations on the electoral reform which the Government would wish to bring about, including political financing, following which a proposal and formula for the financing of political parties will be elaborated. He also added that ‘consultations would be held with the Electoral Supervisory Commission, the Electoral Commissioner and other relevant stakeholders and the Bill would be introduced into the National Assembly in due course’.
As with previous attempts, it is unlikely that the government will be able to marshal the required majority to see its proposals for a comprehensive electoral reform go through, but it is to be hoped that it walks the talk as regards the financing of political parties by the State.
Corruption remains the true basis of the terms of trade in political financing by private and vested interests. This system helps politicians weave a web of unaccountability as regards the financing of their real campaign expenditures and the monies that they pocket for personal purposes. It is not in the public interest that a handful of private companies or drug traffickers finance political campaigns for pecuniary benefits, in the process prompting footloose voters with little or no political conviction to shift their loyalties, and hence electoral outcomes. We can try to mitigate the impact of this scourge by legislating that all political campaign funding should be by the State with spending limits prescribed and scrupulously observed by each candidate at the risk of invalidation of results.
True it is that State financing is not likely to put an end altogether to occult and vested interests’ financing. However even if taxpayer’s money is involved, the long-run costs to the public would be minimized as policies unrelated to the private interests of private companies or individuals involved in crime can then be adopted. As there is no one-fits-all formula for political financing and control thereof, every country, including Mauritius, must design the system that suits its local context. Specialists in the matter advise that countries should not rely on a single policy tool to try to control money in politics as, according to Andrea Abel van Es, Senior Research Fellow, Electoral Integrity Project at University of Sydney, it has been found that it is more effective to use a balanced mix of regulations fitting each country.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 14 April 2023
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