Only a law to compel the publication by political parties of the source of their funds can really be effective in lessening the purchase of political power by wealth
Mauritius Times – 60 Years
By Peter Ibbotson
The General Elections cannot be far off. The London Agreement provided that the elections due this coming August could be postponed for a short while to allow election machinery to be made ready to cope with the new constitutional arrangements, especially as many thousands of voters will for the first time be added to the lists: those who up to now have been denied the right to vote because they cannot read or write. One matter concerned with the elections should be put right beforehand. That is the question of finance. At recent by-elections we have seen the Parti Mauricien and its stooges splashing money around in an attempt to win support. So far their efforts have been thwarted by the inherent good sense of the electorate who prefer the Labour Party’s performances to the Parti Mauricien’s specious promises. But the General Election will surely see the Parti Mauricien spending money again, right and left, so as to get its Legislative Council majority (it hopes!)
Where the Parti Mauricien (PM) gets its money is a mystery — certainly it can’t spend the huge sums it does spend simply out of its membership subscriptions. There are PM local secretaries with four-figure monthly salaries. There is the Black Fund from which undercover agents are subsidised, PM “spies” in private and Government employment are paid, and newspapers and periodicals are bought for free distribution to estate libraries and reading rooms.
What is badly needed is a law to compel all political parties to make public the source of their income and means. In the UK, as also in Western Germany for example, only one party does this: the Labour Party in the UK, the Social Democratic Party in Western Germany. The English and German Tories (the Conservatives in the UK, the Christian Democrats in Western Germany) do not publish the source of their income. Why not? and why does not the Parti Mauricien publish the source of its income? I suggest that the reason, which applies to all three reactionary parties mentioned – though of course I am here concerned only with the Parti Mauricien -, is due to the fact that publication of the source of its means would inevitably reveal its political motives and goals and would perhaps cause a falling-off in electoral support.
It is of course impossible to prevent money from buying political power by subsidising party propaganda. But the fact that prevention is impossible is no reason for doing nothing about it. Even if we cannot prevent money buying political power, we can at least do something to limit opportunities for buying it.
In the U.K., legislation does not compel political parties to reveal the source of their income (though, as I have said, the Labour Party publishes its balance sheets every year), but it does do what it can to ensure equal chances in elections and to ensure that the party with the most money does not thereby have an unfair advantage over the party that is less well-off. The law of 1949 stipulates that no party may spend in any constituency a sum of money larger than has been determined beforehand.
The maximum sum expendable is determined by adding a small sum of money multiplied by the number of voters on the electoral roll to a basic amount per constituency. The formula is more generous in scattered rural constituencies than in compact urban constituencies.
This formula laid down in the Representation of the People Act combats the effect of wealth in party politics at election times; but only at those times. Between elections, the Party that can spend money on propaganda has an advantage over the party that cannot afford to do so. And it is between elections that the British Tories, like the Parti Mauricien, have the edge over their Labour opponents. Only a law to compel the publication by political parties of the source of their funds can really be effective in lessening the purchase of political power by wealth.
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