External funding of local elections poses a danger to the country’s stability, Specially Elected Member of Parliament Unity Dow has warned.
External political funders, Dow says, may expect kickbacks which are likely to disturb the internal running of the government.
Currently, Botswana’s political parties and candidates fund democracy through their own pockets although there have been cries that the ruling party enjoys skewed support both internal and external to the detriment of the opposition by virture of being incumbents.
Dow has put a notice of motion seeking parliament to pass legislation that forbids external funding of elections.
Dow, a former high court judge, said:“There are several reasons which are interrelated. The first is the obvious one. In democratic countries, Botswana included, only citizens vote. Since money (the lack or abundance of) can influence the outcome of someone’s political campaign, outsiders should not be allowed to influence the outcome of an activity that by law is reserved for citizens.”
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has a threshold of how much candidates must spend in campaigns prior to elections to avoid being indebted after elections. Candidates are expected not to spend more than P50 000 during campaigns but this has never been met as more money is spent.
“As the old saying goes “He who pays the piper calls the tune”. It is a fact that no one invests in an enterprise without any expectations of return. Accepting external funding of elections is accepting external interference in the running of the country,” Dow said.
“Limiting election funding to nationally based funders should contribute to leveling the playing field. Allowing external funding gives those with international reach, for whatever reasons, to out-finance those without such a reach,” she said.
She observed that external election funding poses a threat to Botswana’s political landscape. “We are a small country in terms of population size and economic might. It would not take much for some rich gang or even an individual to buy influence through targeted election financing,” she said.
Dow argues that political parties can fund their own political campaigns and related activities without external financial support. “It just means that each party will print fewer t-shirts and hold less extravagant events,” she said.
“I support political party funding by the State. Any such scheme, though, would have to be carefully crafted to avoid the pitfalls in some countries where political party funding has led to a proliferation of parties of convenience,” she said.