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Elections: Campaign Financing

Our feature series this week is on what constitutes free and fair elections, especially in Africa. We’ve had an overview -- a cross section of topics such as transparency, finance, electoral commissions and the role of the media.

Tonight we’ll look in more detail at the role of campaign financing. Chris Fomunyoh is a senior associate and regional director for Africa for the National Democratic Institute and an adjunct professor in African studies at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. From Washington, he told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Cole Mallard that financing guidelines fall into two categories: the source of campaign funds and the reporting and accountability regarding their use.

He says as countries have gone from single-party to multi-party systems, a number of governments have made an effort to legislate public financing of political activities.

As examples of success, he listed Madagascar and Benin (in the country’s elections of 1996 and 2001). He says in Morocco and Gabon, laws provide for public funding tied to the number of seats a party has in Parliament, what he calls a “weighted” system that allows parties access to public funding during the electoral period.

Fomunyoh says funds are necessary but he says, “I would hasten to add that money is not the sole factor that determines whether a candidate wins an election or not. You have to have a credible platform, a message that can resonate with the voters; you have to have a proper organization in place that can get out supporters, that can monitor the electoral process and tally results…. You also have to have a credible candidate. You can have all the wealth that’s needed, but if you don’t have a credible candidate who can relate to the voters, those resources won’t mean anything.”

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