VICTOR BWIRE: Access to Information core to campaign financing requirement

Our survey found that, overall, the more a candidate spends, the greater their chance of electoral victory.

In Summary

•As demand for accountability grows, the place of the access to information law in political processes is becoming critical more than ever before, especially around the issue of campaign financing.

•The already the implementation of the Political Parties Fund, established by the Political Parties Act12, and which sets the threshold for political parties to receive funds has been problematic.

Access to information
Access to information
Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

Increasingly, and with several sections of the Election Campaign Financing Act 2013 and the Political Parties Act 2011 coming into effect ahead of the 2022 general election, there is growing work on the part of citizens, the media and civil society to watch over political parties.

As demand for accountability grows, the place of the access to information law in political processes is becoming critical more than ever before, especially around the issue of campaign financing. The already the implementation of the Political Parties Fund, established by the Political Parties Act12, and which sets the threshold for political parties to receive funds has been problematic.

With the publication of the regulations on the Election Campaign Financing Act 2013 setting limits on campaign funds, which though has already been disputed by legislators, few things come out including accountability and measuring tools to ensure, if at all the regulations are accepted, will be employed to ensure compliance. The Act allows for regulated contributions to parties and candidates, to form campaign finance committees, and to account for funds received. Th recently released rules by the IEBC covers candidate selection process, donation and spending limits, bookkeeping and disclosure requirements and provision for enforcement of regulation.

The draft regulations come just after a study by Prof. Karuti Kanyinga and Tom Mboya on behalf of South Consulting Africa Limited entitled “The cost of politics in Kenya” that gives a different scenario in the country. The established that in the 2017 general election, senators spent Sh 49m, women representative Sh 32.2m, Member of Parliament Sh21.2m and Member of County Assembly Sh 4.2m to win the election and those losing spent Sh 20.3 million, Sh 13.4m, Sh 14.9m and Sh 2.1m respectively.

The IEBC regulations stipulate that Governor, women representative and senator candidates will be limited to spending between Sh21.9 million and Sh117.3m, depending on the size and population of the devolved units. Campaign spending for the three seats in Turkana is capped the highest at about Sh123m, followed by Marsabit and Nairobi at Sh114m  and Sh117m respectively. Lamu is lowest at Sh21m.

This study established that the Senate seat is the most expensive of all the posts to contest for costing an average of Sh35.5m (US$ 350,000) to contest for this seat in 2017. Contestants for the Woman Representative seats followed with an average expenditure of Sh22.8m (US$ 228,000).

Members of parliament averaged Sh18.2m (US$ 182,000), while the Member of County Assembly seat was the least expensive at Sh3.1 million (US$ 31,000). These costs are predominantly raised from individual’s personal savings or with the support of friends or family. Less than 20% of survey respondents received financial support directly from their political party.

Our survey found that, overall, the more a candidate spends, the greater their chance of electoral victory. Woman Rep candidates who won their race spent almost three times as much as those who were unsuccessful. Victorious Senators spent more than double than those who lost. In the race for National Assembly seats successful candidates spent 50% more than those who did not win.

In addition to significant expenditure, the support of a dominant party enhances candidate’s chances significantly. On average elected members of the National Assembly spend as much as Sh780,000 (US$ 7,800) a month: primarily on development projects for constituents and donations to local interest groups. This is more than their basic monthly salary before allowances and benefits. A similar trend of monthly expenditure matching or being greater than basic salary income was reported across all four positions studied.  

Political parties play a fundamental role in democracy and governance, and we must put pressure to have them strengthened and shaped to serve the interests of their members, the good of the nation. Media and related groups- I am wondering why the Public Benefits Organization’s Act (PBO) has never been operationalized to strengthen and legitimize the work of non-state actors in the governance processes in the country.

Such developments as we are seeing ahead of the 2022 general election require strong non state actors to monitor, document and point out gaps including asking for information on political parties that have implication on the democratization process in Kenya. Implementation of the Elections Campaign Financing Act requires more accountability and focus to ensure that political parties develop policies, strategies and ideologies that are clearly discernible and distinct to assist citizens make decisions that shape their lives.

Pro active information disclosure by parties and where this does not happen, media exposes on the activities of parties, manifestos, party nominations, complaints handling procedures, gender sensitivities and related will help citizens in participating in the election.

The Study established that in most cases, women are spending as much or more than men, but they are not enjoying the same level of success for reasons best explained by prevailing patriarchal norms that impact on how they can campaign and how they are perceived by voters.

On the finding that the chances of a candidate winning in the election was influenced by the amount spent on campaigns, this seemed not to apply to women candidates, Sammy Muraya, Project Manager of Voice for Women and Girls Rights – Kenya notes that more strategic interventions are needed to ensure enhanced women participation in politics in this country. More importantly, the issue of changing perceptions though the media and raising their profiles away from the traditional and cultural definition of women especially in leadership. In addition, the issue of impunity and violence in the electioneering process that leads to the violation of human rights for women and other minority groups must be handled.

“Women entering into the political ground often must struggle to receive media coverage and legitimacy in the eyes of the media and subsequently the public. For one to be noticed, she must act in a manly way to prove a point. Journalists often hold such women accountable for the actions of their husbands and children standard which are regretfully not applied to the male counterparts, yet gender equality lies at the core of human rights approach development. This must change” Muraya notes.

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