Political party funding regulation imperative

THE question and response to who funds our political parties has always been shrouded in secrecy since Namibia became a constitutional democracy in 1990 but perhaps, the events surrounding the most recent elections should now warrant us to open discourse on the importance of regulating private funding of political parties.

Indeed, since the fishrot saga that attempted to implicate Swapo as having used dirty money for campaigns, President Hage Geingob has said that the government needs to come up with a law to regulate public donations to political parties for elections or campaigns.

While this is so, secrecy and rumours that surrounded the origins of funds that fuelled Independent candidate, Dr Panduleni Itula’s campaign may well compound us to desire a need for regulation in this space, even more, as our political environment becomes more competitive.

Namibia is one of very few democracies in the world that don’t regulate the private funding of political parties. Most countries have laws that encourage parties to disclose who their funders are. All ten of the largest democracies in the world have disclosure laws.

Legislation to control private funding in Namibia is long overdue because its absence opens the door to corruption and citizens need to know who is paying the piper.

Worldwide, it’s the anonymity of private funders that creates the most controversy. This is because parties typically spend much more private than public money during election campaigns.

What must push us to want this legislation is that transparent governance and multiparty democracy depend on knowing where donations come from. That’s because private contributions to a political party are made in anticipation that the party will advance a particular social interest, policy or viewpoint. A public armed with information about who is providing candidates with the most support are in a much better position to detect any post-election special favours they may be given in return.

There are no points for guessing that developing such a comprehensive legislative framework presents numerous challenges, particularly as it requires balancing competing considerations in an ever-changing political environment. It will also require a significant amount of political will, as well as broad public consensus.

From the outset, it should be noted that the changes and amendments to the laws regulating political parties, and, in particular, the financing of our political parties will greatly contribute to making this area of legislation more comprehensive and accessible. These amendments also help close certain loopholes in political party funding that may result in high profile corruption cases involving political parties and, subsequently, in low levels of trust in political parties.

Our country’s Constitution states that the Republic is founded on the values of “accountability, responsiveness and openness”. There can be no doubt that revealing party funding gives effect to the spirit of the Constitution.