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Thursday, 8 November 2007

A View From Outside - Part 1 : Campaign Finance

David Simon, a political science lecturer at Yale University, has written an interesting assessment of Zambia's current institutional crisis for Freedom House, as part of the Countries at the Crossroads 2007 survey. You can access the report here. Many of the issues covered in the report have been discussed on New Zambia many times. Nevertheless I thought it might be useful to extracts some of the most interesting perspectives offered by David Simon, especially since they have a read across to the Draft Constitution Specials and other issues we have discussed here. Here's is David's take on the question of campaign finance, which we have touched on under Sakism and When Hichilenomics met Sakism:

No rules regulate campaign finance in Zambia. A controversy arose during the 2006 campaign when it was reported that Sata, who had criticized Chinese investors, was being bankrolled by Taiwanese business interests. There was no public mechanism to confirm or refute the allegations, and the episode served to shed light on the need for better accounting of campaign revenues and expenditures. The lack of campaign finance regulation presents economically powerful actors with an opportunity to exert undue influence on Zambian politics. Innuendo aside, however, there is little direct evidence that any such actors have done so in recent elections.....The national assembly should enact a law that regulates campaign financing by requiring transparent and timely disclosure of all sources of campaign funds.
David is absolutely correct that lack of campaign finance regulation is the problem and not as others have often indicated lack of public finance. Political parties are just like any other investment. If your brand is correct and offers a good return, people are more than willing to invest their money and time to make it work. If your brand is poor, no money will be forth coming. People and organisations are waiting to queue to fund political parties and this will continue as Zambia becomes an attractive place to invest and political competition improves. The key is to ensure a level playing field through a stronger constitution which would encourage a more level playing and increase political competition. Greater political competition should encourage investment in political parties. Those parties that cannot attract funding may need to consider whether their "political brand" is as attractive as it ought to be. Crucially, they should dedicate their energy to pushing for a level playing field through a stronger constitution.

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