Research carried out by

Benin

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

Population: 11.6 million
President of the Republic: Patrice Talon
Party in power: Progressive Union and Republican Bloc
Last election: 2019
Next election: 2023
Election surveyed: 2019
Number of registered voters: 5.5 million
Year of study: 2020

1
Average cost to seek election to legislature: US$73,960 (CFA 40.3 million)
US$73,960
2
Total average cost to get elected to parliament as % of annual MP salary: 148%
148%
3
Main source of funding: Personal resources
Personal resources
4
Annual salary of MP: CFA 60 million (US$108,877)
US$108,877
5
Election expenses are increasing year over year. From 2007 to 2015, the increase is over 132%.
132%
2007-2015
6
Threshold of authorised expenses per candidate according to the electoral law for legislative election: CFA 30 million (US$55,000).
US$55,000
7
In general, candidates in rural electoral districts spend more than those in urban districts. This is because vote buying is favoured in less literate and poorer rural areas.

Population: 11.6 million
President of the Republic: Patrice Talon
Party in power: Progressive Union and Republican Bloc
Last election: 2019
Next election: 2023
Election surveyed: 2019
Number of registered voters: 5.5 million
Year of study: 2020

Key Findings

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Cost of the campaign

  • The most important source of funding for election expenses is personal finances. Contributions from members/supporters are marginal for legislative elections.
  • The choice of candidates to be placed on the candidate list is based to a great extent on the financial capacity of the candidate, who will be asked to finance their campaign on their own.
  • A candidate's election expenses are spread over a relatively long period and begin well before the start of the electoral process. Once elected, the MP must also maintain members/supporters.
  • The ‘proper’ expenditure headings often reported in campaign accounts are the following: organisation of rallies; staff costs; transport and travel costs; catering costs for campaign activists; accommodation; poster and meeting costs; communication, advertising and publication costs (leaflets, banners, effigies, etc.); costs related to depreciation of fixed assets for the campaign period. ‘Other’ expenses are made when going door-to-door the day before the election.
  • During their term of office, elected officials also face enormous burdens: medical, spiritual and educational needs of voters; donations to traditional and religious leaders; support for women and youth according to their social needs; party operations; and construction and infrastructure in their constituencies, etc. These ‘solidarity expenses’ of MPs are very significant. MPs say that they are like 'social workers' for their electorate.

Findings

  • The legal framework for electoral expenditure is weak. The legal provisions (Electoral Code) are generally not respected by candidates, and there is no effective mechanism to control candidates' expenditure.
  • There has been a massive influx of business people into the political arena. The arrival of business people in parliament has increased competition on the ground in terms of solidarity spending and assistance to communities.
  • The demand and supply of political accountability is not effective. Elected officials are appreciated for their donations, assistance and acts of solidarity, rather than their vision, policy proposals or development strategies. The MP is generally perceived as a potential patron.
  • Citizens nowadays expect politicians to provide them with financial and material support.
  • The requirement of a fixed discharge increases costs, with the candidate having to pay all his or her tax arrears.
  • Candidates with modest incomes are perceived as less credible in the eyes of the communities, since they are unable to respond to financial demands.
  • Internet monitoring and social media presence is increasingly expensive for candidates who must develop an innovative communication strategy while at the same time ensuring that fake news about their activities is not disseminated.

Consequences for democracy

  • The quality and relevance of the candidate's ideas and plans are of little importance, especially in rural areas. Money has taken precedence over policy, and therefore over governance and development in the interest of all.
  • Most of the eligible population is excluded from the political game because of financial limitations; women and young people are disproportionately affected by this because they are generally less well off.
  • Once elected, the representative must seek to recapitalise their assets and make a new financial windfall for the next electoral competition.
  • False competition for power is driven by the dramatically unequal resources available to the different candidates in the campaign.
  • To limit political spending, some elected officials limit their travel to the constituency, thus avoiding solicitations from activists.
  • The factors above limit the quality of elected representatives and the contribution of the political class to the development of the country.

Recommendations

  • Strict monitoring of legal provisions on capping and controlling campaign spending is needed to reduce inequalities between rich and less wealthy candidates, and to remove the perception among citizens that it is the rich who win elections. To this end, a monitoring and sanction mechanism should be put in place.
  • Respect for equal access, to public media in particular.
  • Strengthen interactions between elected representatives and grassroots populations based on vision, policy proposals and plans.
  • Direct public political party funding towards legal expenditure can support fairer electoral competition.

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