LALIT denounces the Government’s recently announced proposals to supposedly control political parties’ finances and to supposedly address the issue of the corruption of political parties by capitalist vested interests. Other than doing nothing whatsoever to address these issues that are obviously serious obstructions to democracy as well as being inherent to capitalist rule, the proposals would do a lot of harm. (1)
Here are our reasons for our outright rejection of the proposals.
1. LALIT favours control over corporate corrupting of political parties and welcomes brakes on quid pro quo agreements between parties and big companies – but only those controls that mean giving more power to the people. We oppose the Pravind Jugnauth proposals precisely because they give further bureaucratic powers to the State and even to the particular regime in power. So, Jugnauth’s proposals bring less democracy and more autocracy and bureaucracy. What we propose is that, if those in power act in corrupt ways or on the basis of quid pro quo, the masses of the people must have the power to sanction them directly. This is easy to organize: we need a simple Constitutional amendment giving electors the power to revoke MPs, including those MPs who are Ministers, between two elections. People should be able to do this by means of a formal electoral petition based on reasoned arguments accepted by the Electoral Supervisory Commission as such, and checked by them afterwards. This kind of system already exists in many countries, states and municipalities world-wide. And on the question of party leaders getting their hands on party funds, people must put order in the parties they are in, or resign from them and join another one or set up a new one that is, in fact, democratically-run.
2. LALIT has for ages been warning of the dangers of moving from the correct strategy of tightening up electoral expenses towards the dangers of granting more power to the State or to its bureaucracy, and in the final analysis to the regime in power, to control political parties or, more dangerously still, opposition political parties by means of control over their finances. In LALIT, we have always maintained that it is on expenses side that it is both necessary and possible to apply controls that do not decrease democracy, and certainly not bring in State control over political parties. There is a world of difference. (In the final analysis, there is no short-cut. Working people must mobilize so as to vote out any parties that represent the interests of big business, and not their interests – this means political organization.) The ESC, precisely because it is, up till now, an institution that functions, in particular, when it is not clear who is in power, at the moment of the change in regime, when power is in fact in the hands of the people, has remained respected for its integrity. Jugnauth intends to turn the ESC into a permanent bureaucracy. This means there will be year-in, year-out State control over all parties. Gradually it will become like all other State institutions. One that functions in the interests of the regime in power, of the much-bemoaned dynasties that run mainstream parties. This will, in turn, destroy the ESC’s still-existing integrity sure as god made little apples. And political parties, which have had the right to exist as a natural part of free association, will now have to “register with the state” in order to exist! What a profoundly undemocratic change that would be! This is so, particularly when we remember that perhaps the most important democratic change since feudal despotism is the right for any group of people to form a political party and struggle for change, independently of the State. What will predictably happen is that the control by the State (via the permanent powers of the ESC to inspect and regulate parties, whether they want money or not from the repayment scheme proposed) will morph into control by the regime in power. The political party in power will get a state stranglehold over all opposition parties, i.e. over its political adversaries. The ESC, once permanent, will become like the MBC. A regime doormat. As if in preparation for this deviation, Pravind Jugnauth has recently nominated Ammanah Ragavoodoo to the ESC. She a woman known to be close to power i.e. she is Pravind Jugnauth’s personal attorney and does key MSM business. Before her, he had first wanted to nominate his wife’s cousin, Shamila Sona Ori. So, the ESC is already on its way to becoming like any other state controlled bureaucracy in the Jugnauth state. And once the ESC becomes a kind of “Registrar of Political Parties”, everyone who has been active in a union or association will recognize at once how the Registrar of Associations, at key moments really makes life difficult for groups the regime in power wants to silence or weaken. It is a nightmare. Note that the Pentecostal and Evangelical churches are in open rebellion against the controls on their free association through this Registrar, claiming they want the same freedom as the Catholic church, outside of state control. They say they are sick and tired of being harassed by the state bureaucracy. This is what is waiting for political parties in the future, should these outrageous proposals become law. We sure hope all the do-gooders who have been calling hysterically for “control of political party finances” realize now, a bit late, the difference between democratic controls which need political organization of people who believe in them (what LALIT works towards) and State controls that they have blindly been calling for.
3. LALIT, in any case, does not agree that the State should fund political parties. We believe that the State should ensure that parties are granted equal time on radios and TV stations, and that they cover postal costs for mailing programs to electors, for example. (It is not rocket science for the State to be able to judge which parties are real, being organizations with a history, party publications, a website and so on to qualify for this assistance. The State can, if need be at election times, register only non-communalo-religious parties to avoid the danger of irrational ethnic conflict.)
4. Instead of controlling electoral expenditure, Pravind Jugnauth has come and exposed to the public eye just how high the expenditure of mainstream parties is. He says a “realistic” ceiling is Rs 80 million. And this does not count gifts in kind, which are not included, nor gifts from well-wishers. So, expenditure will still not be controlled. Parties will be controlled, but election expenses will not be. Control of expenses is what needs tightening up. One election, that of Ashok Jugnauth, was rescinded by the Supreme Court for abuse of pre-electoral use of state power. This shows that LALIT’s demand for tightening up electoral expenses is not only what is needed, but what is possible. It has worked, but needs tightening up, in particular the onus of proof for “well-wishers’ expenses” can be changed to being on the candidate.
5. Curiously, when one reads the Jugnauth proposal, one is left with the impression that he has no idea what a proper political party is. There is no mention of party members. And so there is no mention of their contributions. He has forgotten that parties have members! No doubt the MSM has relied on its Sun Trust revenue and other big companies’ donations so much that it does not even think of members contributing. The MSM does not have activist members, but a lot of paid agents, paid to trick people, and then atomized electors, duped with biryani and rice-cookers into voting.
6. The basis of democracy is broad. And it takes broad organization, hard political work, to get more democracy. If capitalists and companies corrupt part leaderships, then either the party members must revoke their leaders or resign and join, or set up, another party. It is morally clear what you need to do. If you want to vote for a band of men in one of the traditional parties (now a band of men and women) who work for the bosses that gave them Rs80 million in donations, that’s where the problem is. So, the work ahead is not easy: it takes building a democratic, party that is run by those who adhere to its program. This is the basis of democracy. Why should we think that calling on the bourgeois State to control party finances would somehow help working class people? Never. It is a pro-capitalist State, not just a pro-capitalist regime.
7. Replying to a question from a reporter, Pravind Jugnauth said “Ah, bann ti parti ...” in a disparaging way. He should not be so disdainful. His MSM not so long ago represented some 3%, and is always in an alliance with other parties. It has never confronted the electorate alone. Why not? Precisely because the MSM, too, is a small party.
8. LALIT believes that the Jugnauth proposals are eye-wash. And dangerous eye-wash, in that it can harm peoples’ eyes. It has two dangerous effects: it increases the allowed electoral expenses by a multiple of 6 to Rs80 million, and it gives the State a stranglehold over political parties.
So LALIT rejects these proposals: They are printed below, in toto, for your reference.
(1) Pravind Jugnauths’ Proposals for Control of Party Funding (verbatim)
Published by PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE
Financing of Political Parties Proposals of Government
1. Accountability and Transparency
2. Registration of Parties
All political parties would be required to register with the Electoral Supervisory Commission for the purpose of the Financing of Political Parties Act.
3. Private Funding
(a) ensure that accounting records of the party's transactions are kept;
(b) prepare a statement of accounts in respect of each financial year, which should be duly audited. Where a party's gross income or total expenditure in any financial year exceeds Rs 1 million, the accounts should be audited by a qualified auditor;
(c) submit the auditor's report and his audited statement of accounts to the ESC within 2 months after the end of every financial year, or from the date of the poll in an election year – the statement would not indicate the names of donors; and
(d) keep a register showing the amounts received from private individuals and corporate bodies, the names and addresses of the donors and the date of the donations in the form and manner that may be prescribed.
4. State Funding – Quantum and Mode of Allocation of Funding to Political Parties and Candidates
5. Prohibited Donations
6. Overseas Funding · Donations from non-citizens and overseas corporate bodies will be prohibited. · Donations from Mauritian citizens will however be allowed, irrespective of their country of residence. Moreover, there will be no limit on such donations.
7. Expenditure Limits
8. Powers and Functions of the Electoral Supervisory Commission
The sanctions for the breach of the legislation will be sanctioned by: - Fines - Loss/suspension/reduction of public funding
10. Regulations of Political ‘Baz’
Each candidate/political party would be allowed to set up one temporary and ad-hoc political quarter, commonly known as “Baz”, per Polling Station plus one headquarters per Constituency.