The Gambia

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

7

Key Takeaways: Cost of Politics

Population: 35 million
Head of Government: President Adama Barrow
Ruling party/coalition: National People’s Party
Last election: December 2016
Next election: 2021
Registered voters: 886,578 (2017)
Annual salary of member of legislature: D600,0000 (US$14,742)  

1
Candidates believe that the more they are financially active in solving people’s economic needs, the more likely their chances of winning popular support.
2
In the 2017 elections, candidates were often responsible for funding most of their own campaigns, with little or no oversight, or control exercised by the party on whose ticket they stood.
3
A candidates’ total campaign outlay which ranged from between D200,000 and D750,000 for those interviewed for this study.
US$ 4,500-15,000
4
the costs can be equally as high in rural constituencies as they are in urban areas. In fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that costs of politics for candidates in rural communities is higher than those in the urban areas.
5
Candidates said that occupying the parliamentary seat was more of a burden rather than a reward, as the social responsibilities sometimes overwhelm them.
6
A candidate’s social capital in a community can reduce the monetary costs of seeking political office.
7
Just two of the 53 elected members of the National Assembly are women. High costs have the potential to undermine broader public participation in the democratic process.
53
2

Population: 35 million
Head of Government: President Adama Barrow
Ruling party/coalition: National People’s Party
Last election: December 2016
Next election: 2021
Registered voters: 886,578 (2017)
Annual salary of member of legislature: D600,0000 (US$14,742)  

Key Findings

Click on the headings below to find out more information

Context

  • Since independence in 1965, The Gambia has held periodic multi-party elections. But it had never registered an electoral turnover of power until December 2016 when independent presidential aspirant Adama Barrow, backed by seven opposition political parties, defeated incumbent, Yahya Jammeh.
  • At present, 16 political parties are registered with the country’s electoral body, an increase from nine in 2016. This proliferation has happened despite the high cost of registering a political party: 1 million Dalasi (D1,000,000 or $20,000).
  • The more equal and competitive playing field ushered in by Jammeh’s departure in 2017 is also driving a rise in the cost associated with running for office.

Drivers of Cost of Politics

  • When a National Assembly member does work within their mandate, it is not seen as them doing what they should do, but as doing their constituents a favour, one that is in return for constituents casting their ballot for that individual.
  • The Gambia suffers from an inherent lack of organisational party structures. Incumbent political parties have historically been sustained by their access to state resources. But their structural weaknesses have been exposed immediately after they vacate political power.
  • In the Gambia’s newly liberalised political space, the personal costs of politics for individual aspirants are rising rapidly. For instance, one parliamentarian explained that the cost of his re-election increased from D25,000 in 2012 to D200,000 in 2017; an almost tenfold increase.
  • The style of campaign adopted by candidates and the size of the constituency can determine how much a candidate spends during the campaign. Rallies are considered more expensive when compared with door-to-door campaigns, but they also have the potential of addressing a wider audience.

Conclusions and Recommendations

  • There is no law that regulates campaign finance in The Gambia. Whilst political parties are required to submit audited financial reports to the IEC, both scrutiny and enforcement is limited. But considering the prevailing circumstances as well as in response to regulations set by the Electoral Act, calls for state financing of political parties are getting louder.
  • More work must be done to ensure voters are educated about the role of parliamentarians, so that they better understand the implications of their choices.
  • For the most part, partisan politics in The Gambia is not driven by issues or ideological leaning, but by political favours exchanged between voters and candidates that come with increasing cost implications. The relationship between parties and voters must be redefined to make voting based on merit.

We use cookies to enhance your experience. By continuing to visit this site, you accept our use of cookies.