Research into the costs of seeking political office in Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius and Uganda has shown not only that the amounts required to contest are increasing every year, but that in all four countries the campaign costs on average amount to more than an MP’s annual salary. For those elected, expectations about how they should continue to support constituents and constituency development means that the costs of being in office can also be extremely high.
The costs involved in seeking political office are constant, starting with the party primary process and extending to their time in office, should they win a seat. Candidates themselves bear the largest burden for raising the funds to run. Activities in the formal campaign period, such as rallies and door-to-door campaigning, continue to account for the bulk of election expenditure.
One impact of the high, and growing costs of politics, is the increased exclusion of ordinary citizens from the political space. Young and female aspirants are particularly constrained, especially where there are no quotas for women representatives. Another is the increased incentive for members of the legislature to engage in corrupt practices to continue to meet constituent demands when in office, and to recoup investments made to get elected. With legislative turnover rates in Malawi, Kenya and Uganda of around 50%, at least half of MPs will serve only one four or five-year term.
To reduce the costs outlaid on seeking office, the reports point to combined efforts that link stronger and more enforceable campaign finance regulations, with greater civic education for voters about the role that MPs should play.