Research carried out by

Malawi

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

Population: 18.6 million
Head of Government: President Lazarus Chakwera
Ruling party/coalition: Democratic Progressive Party
Last election: 2019
Next election: 2025
Year of study: 2019
Registered voters: 6.86 million (2020)
Annual salary of member of legislature: K19.2 million (US$26,100)

1
Average cost to seek election to parliament: K27 million (US$37,000)
US$ 37,000
2
Total average cost to get elected to parliament as % of annual MP salary:
142%
3
Main source of funding:
Personal resources
4
62% of candidates spent more than they had expected in the campaign.
62%
5
83% of survey respondents think women are disadvantaged by the high cost of politics.
83%
6
87% of survey respondents think youth are disadvantaged by high cost of politics.
87%
7
Percentages of candidates in favour of a spending cap:
56%

Population: 18.6 million
Head of Government: President Lazarus Chakwera
Ruling party/coalition: Democratic Progressive Party
Last election: 2019
Next election: 2025
Year of study: 2019
Registered voters: 6.86 million (2020)
Annual salary of member of legislature: K19.2 million (US$26,100)

Key Findings

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Election campaigns

  • Candidates standing in party strongholds spent more in primaries than other candidates.
  • The most important costs in primaries are costs associated with constituency development projects, meeting party structures, organising the primary (including transporting delegates), and buying party materials (including t-shirts and cloth for delegates).
  • In general elections candidates spend the most on organising rallies and other campaign activities, engaging in constituency development projects, procuring party material, and monitoring elections. Our survey found that 89% of candidates funded some local development projects during the campaign. For most candidates, these were smaller projects like drilling a borehole or repairing potholes in roads.
  • Despite the enactment of the 2018 Political Parties’ Act and the prohibition of handouts, more than 96% of candidates state that at least one candidate in their constituency used handouts to voters and chiefs in their campaigns.

Raising the funds

  • Candidates receive very little contributions from social groups and business interests.
  • Malawian campaigns are mostly self-funded; the average candidate drew 83% of their campaign resources from personal resources.
  • The average candidate (non-independent) received 3.3 million MKW ($4,500) worth of support from their party (in cash, goods, and services). However, the variation between parties is large, with ruling party candidates receiving the biggest financial backing.
  • Most opposition party candidates received little from their parties, save from a small amount of campaign material and possibly reimbursement for nomination fees.

Impacts, implications and recommendations

  • The high costs of politics limits political representation, curtails competition, and spurs corruption.
  • The findings suggest that parties are as dependent on their parliamentary candidates as candidates are dependent on their parties.
  • A correlation exists between electoral success and spending. However, our interviewees were clear that money alone will not get you elected: candidates also need to connect with voters, be perceived as competent and contribute to the development of their constituencies.
  • As many as 95% of all candidates agree with the statement that more civic education is needed to inform voters on the implications of the handout prohibition.

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