Whereas Malawi has experienced numerous political changes since the election of Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera in June 2020, the one thing that remains constant is the lack of political will to legislate on election campaign financing. Yet, the country’s democracy faces a growing challenge of unregulated money in politics.
The political class in Malawi, like many other electoral jurisdictions in Africa, is reluctant to promote campaign finance integrity which is achievable through the development of a law to regulate money used by political parties and candidates in elections.
Secrets Known takes note of the Political Parties Act No. 1 of 2018 which sets the rules and regulations for funding political parties in general. It provides for political parties to receive funding for:
- promoting the representation of the party in Parliament;
- Promoting active participation of individual citizens in political life;
- Covering the election expenses of a political party and the broadcasting of the policies of the political party;
- Conducting civic education in democracy and other political processes; and
- Administrative and staff expenses of the party (Political Parties Act of 2018, 22 (1)).
The Act states that the funds received by political parties ought not to be used for personal gain and the accounts of the political parties are audited by the Auditor General (Political Parties Act of 2018, 23(2)).
The law enjoins political parties to submit income and expenditure declarations to the Registrar. However, this provision is not followed and the Registrar does not take decisive decisions to enforce the law.
However, there is contestation regarding the protection and privacy of political finance donors. The agitation is that people/organizations should be allowed to support political parties while maintaining their privacy (which in turn undermines the very essence of demanding transparency).
In a nutshell, the Political Parties Act No. 1 of 2018 has since its enactment four years ago, not been put to test. Implementation of the law remains a challenge.