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The need to speak clearly on political donations

19.05.2015

THE NEED TO SPEAK CLEARLY
WHICH PARTIES SPEND MILLIONS ON ELECTIONS?

LALIT calls on politicians, commentators and journalists to tighten up their language when speaking about all political parties that use slush funds to cover their electoral expenses. Parties use such funds because they vastly exceed the legal limits for expenses. We are sick of hearing people say, “ All parties have received money from the BAI” or other companies. Last week Patrick Assirvaden said that it’s normal that parties have huge funds, like the Rs220 million left over in the house of Labour Party leader, Navin Ramgoolam. He said he knows how electoral campaigns, in fact, cost all parties millions of rupees.

The word “all”, or in Kreol “tu”, or in French “tous” is a word with a particular meaning: it means, there are no exceptions. Otherwise, we must say “most” parties or “parties with the exception of, say, LALIT”. In this context, we call on people to remember two things:

a) LALIT is a political party, and
b) LALIT has never received political donations from any private company, and we have spent precisely what we swear to in our electoral returns, which in 2014 was less than Rs10,000 per candidate, including the Rs1,500 electoral deposit. The limit is Rs250,000;
c) therefore, it is not possible for serious commentators, or even political adversaries, to continue maintaining that all parties use slush funds for their electoral expenses.

Before moving on to LALIT’s proposals, we would also like to add two points for debate:
1. The electoral alliance that spent the most lost the last elections in a bate bef; this means, money is not all.
2. When everyone assumes that the Rs220 million in cash and foreign exchange found in Labour Party leader’s possession are party donations, it means that they are adopting his defence as their analysis.

Proposals
Within capitalism it is impossible, by definition, to control the funding of political parties. The logic behind this statement is that:

a) political parties are institutions that, in general, represent the interests of particular social classes;
b) the capitalist class is the ruling class, and it will thus have the power to finance parties that represent its interests, despite any law to the contrary. So, however “good” it makes people feel to call for a new repressive law, it will not work; and in addition,
c) such a law will do harm to democracy. The bureaucracy that the State will set up in its attempt to control political party funding will swiftly fall under regime control. It will become a bureaucratic tool in the hands of any given regime. It will be used against all opposition parties. If even ICAC and CCID are, imagine the way this bureaucracy will be used. The Electoral Commission, until now known for its integrity, will be at risk.

If we want to limit the falsification of electoral results by bribery and corruption and over-spending, there is, in fact, a simple mechanism. That is to tighten up existing control over electoral expenses and bribery. This mechanism has in recent history worked: Ashok Jugnauth’s election was declared null in Constituency Number 8 by the Privy Council. The fact that the MMM rehabilitated him later is the political responsibility of the MMM.

Ultimately, it is not more bureaucracy (laws and repression) that is the answer to abuse of funds and power by political parties. Associations and trade unions have ample experience of the bias, harassment and repression suffered at the hands of the Registrar of Associations, a paternalistic institution left over from colonization, which does not consider Mauritians mature enough to control their own associations and unions.

The answer is more democracy and more freedom. This is why LALIT proposes election by MPs of the Leader of the House, who then becomes Prime Minister, the ratification of the Cabinet by elected MPs, and then the right to revocation of all those elected at all levels. This includes the right for electors in their Constituency to revoke any elected MP including Ministers and the Prime Minister.

Alain Ah-Vee
For LALIT
18 May 2015