Research carried out by

Mali

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

Population: 19.6 million
President of the Republic: Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) – ousted since August 2020
Party in power: Rally for Mali (RPM)
Last election: 2018 (followed by a coup d'Etat in August 2020)
Next election: 2022 (after the Transition Period)
Election surveyed: 2013
Number of registered voters: 8,000,462
Year of study: 2019

1
Average cost to seek election to legislature:
US$ 66,956
2
Total average cost to get elected to parliament as % of annual MP salary
252%
3
Main source of funding:
Personal resources
4
4. Annual salary of MP (including allowances): CFA14.4 million (US$26,397)
US$ 26,397
5
5. Political parties now require candidates to contribute to the party's election campaign. The amount is around CFA 10 million (US$18,300) for the legislative elections.
US$ 18,300
6
Today voters are more interested in the ability of the candidate or elected official to "take care of his or her people" than in his or her ideas.
7
7. Financial generosity has become an indispensable quality of the ideal politician. "If you don't give money to the voters, the other candidates will give it”.

Population: 19.6 million
President of the Republic: Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) – ousted since August 2020
Party in power: Rally for Mali (RPM)
Last election: 2018 (followed by a coup d'Etat in August 2020)
Next election: 2022 (after the Transition Period)
Election surveyed: 2013
Number of registered voters: 8,000,462
Year of study: 2019

Key Findings

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Cost of the campaign

  • Money is often mentioned as an important factor in the selection of candidates by political parties and has called into question other criteria, which were decisive at the beginning of democratisation in the 1990s: geographical distribution, gender, leadership and popularity, militancy, political commitment, degree of establishment and capacity for mobilisation.
  • Election-related expenses are on average CFA36.3 million for legislative elections and CFA13.1 million for communal elections.
  • The candidates themselves cover 80% of the cost for the election campaign; contributions from party members are very low.
  • Most political parties interviewed note the inadequacy of dues paid by members and supporters. Some respondents say "political parties in Mali do not have supporters, but rather voters that they buy in different elections".
  • The contributions of private sector operators are marginal sources of financing of legislative and communal election campaigns. According to the actors, it is generally to the presidential candidate that the private sector prefers to bring their financial support, hoping for a return on investment in case of success of the candidate.
  • During their term of office, elected officials are expected to carry financial burdens such as: medical, spiritual and educational needs of voters; donations to traditional and religious leaders; support for women and youth according to their needs; taking charge of party operations; and building equipment and infrastructure in their constituencies. According to some of the respondents, these expenses exceed those of electoral campaigns.

Findings

  • There is a lack of legal regulation of sources of campaign finance and weak campaign spending legislation.
  • Politics is today considered a financial investment and politicians are willing to pay the price to enter it, for a return on their investment. Beyond statutory financial benefits, elected officials count on the returns on their electoral investment in terms of influence peddling.
  • Politicians and political parties, in their quest for power, have agreed to replace accountability and ideas with money. According to one interviewee, "politicians have perverted politics. For them, the most important thing is to win no matter what means are used". Political ideology and the programme of the candidate have consequently lost credibility.
  • As a result of disappointment; the erosion of societal values and social benchmarks; lack of training and awareness; and the state of widespread poverty, citizens have prioritized money  in the elections. People expect politicians to provide them with financial and material support.
  • The way in which lists are drawn up on the basis of candidates' contributions favours 'opportunistic' candidatures from people who are sometimes not party members (neither militant nor sympathiser) but who are rich enough to be co-opted onto the party list at the expense of less well-off aspirants.

From bad to worse

  • The actors unanimously recognise a trend towards increased spending on politics. On the one hand, the political actors and the voters themselves are unaware of the prohibitions laid down by the electoral law. On the other hand, legal sanctions are never applied.
  • At the first local elections in 1999, there was not a great deal of vote buying. Voters elected candidates based on their personality, popularity, dedication to the common good and, above all, their anchoring in the values of the community. Giving or taking money or material goods to give one's vote to a candidate was unknown to candidates and voters alike. It was only in the 2004 elections that the buying of voters' consciences started to take place. This is now a worrying phenomenon, which violates the electoral texts.
  • The stakes are rising because voters have lost faith in any political ideology or candidate platform. Today voters are more interested in the ability of the candidate or elected official to "take care of his or her people" than in his or her ideas. The election itself is seen as a campaign to earn some money. Indeed, they can be considered as a time to make up, through the parties and candidates, for the deficiencies of the state in terms of basic social services. This encourages the candidates to spend more. Strategies for 'capturing' gains, often from all candidates, include selling your vote or voter's card, with a supporting proxy voting in your place.
  • Elected officials are subject to a kind of "financial harassment" by active members of their constituency. The electorate considers the elected official a public good that should benefit them.

Consequences for democracy

  • The competence and relevance of the candidate's ideas and projects are of little importance. Money has taken precedence over policy, and thus over governance and development for the benefit of all.
  • Most of the eligible population is excluded from the political game due to financial limitations, women and youth disproportionally so. Law 52 on the 30% quota reserved for women in legislative and appointed positions protects them, to some extent, against this exclusion based on financial means.
  • False competition for power is a result of excessive inequality of resources enjoyed by different candidates in the campaign.
  • Vote buying plays on the legitimacy of elected officials and skews democracy in Mali.
  • The candidate who gets elected through personal finance does not feel indebted to the voters, nor to the party. As a result, parties have no control over the elected officials, who can vote as they wish and engage in political floor crossing at will.

Recommendations

  • Campaign spending limits and controls are required to reduce inequalities between candidates with different financial means, and to remove the perception among citizens that the rich win elections. However, some doubt the effectiveness of the cap, given the difficulty in controlling it and sanctioning in cases where it is exceeded. Strict and effective enforcement and the establishment of an independent mechanism for monitoring and sanctioning infringements is required.
  • Regulation of pre-election campaigns is required, as is supervision of public or private investment in public facilities in the run-up to elections. The political sensitivities of the government majority are tempted to abuse the state's public media, financial, material and logistical resources during the pre-campaign period.
  • There is a need to bring together elected officials and the population: to discuss (false) promises made by candidates during electoral campaigns.

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