LALIT sent a written submission to the Select Committee on the Funding of Political Parties. Our submission is not acknowledged in the Select Committee Report. In the Preamble to the Report, Mr. Leung Shing even says: The Select Committee had also invited political parties to submit memoranda on the subject of political funding. Unfortunately, the MSM is the only political party which responded.
LALIT also requested to be heard by the Select Committee. The Select Committee never called us to depone.
So much for democracy.
THE POLITICAL EFFECT
Now, when the Select Committee Report gets tabled, Prime Minister Paul Bérenger, in his usual cavalier manner, sets up a Ministerial Committee to out-do the Select Committee of the House. The new Committee will naturally be presided over by Paul Bérenger himself. Once again the PM daunts Parliament. This time it looks a bit like a baté-randé by the MMM against the MSMs Leung Shing Report, for Leung Shing having sabotaged the Collendavelloo Select Committee Report on introducing some form of proportional representation.
The Content of the Report
The main feature of the Leung Shing Report is that he makes a mockery of the already ludicrous proposals made by Albie Sachs, the man with no in-depth historical experience of electoral politics that Paul Bérenger brought over from newly electorally-literate South Africa to advise the experience-wise Mauritian population on electoral reform. Albie Sachs basically proposed funding of all political parties from a single central fund, in exchange for strict bureaucratic and political control by the State of all the parties who were registered as parties for the purposes of funding. The coercive nature of his proposals was thinly veiled by the pretence that it is optional whether you register or not as a party.
M. Leung Shing now comes and proposes that all the strict bureaucratic and even political controls by the State over political parties be implemented (Articles 3 – 12 of Sachs draft law) while he rightly rejects the idea of the single central fund, and does not (again rightly) propose any state funding at all. All the Select Committee proposes is the repression proposed by Sachs, as well as a few extra forms of control for good measure.
The Select Committee, just like the Sachs Report, is thus in favour of massive new bureaucratic controls over political parties for the first time in history. Forming a political party, according to Leung Shing, should no longer be a fundamental right. These anti-democratic measures proposed by Sachs and agreed to by Leung Shing include converting the registration of political parties from being a civil right, as it is at present, to being a status conferred on a party only after having furnished all sorts of information and commitments to the existing State, a State known to be a most unfair body in its present form, as well as parties having a statutory obligation to furnish literally any other information that the Electoral Commission demands.
The whole report is thus totally unacceptable. As was the Sachs Report before it.
But let us look at the Select Committee opposition to the common pool for funding of political parties activities. The Committee says rightly that it would do injustice to the whole electoral process. One of the reasons the Select Committee gives, and with which we agree, is that through State funding in a single common fund, only essentially major political parties would benefit from the Fund, thus denying emerging political parties the opportunity for development and ossification of older political parties with little or no possibility of turnover of political parties. This is certainly true. For this reason, amongst others, we also oppose State funding of political parties.
The Committee is not only against State Funding through a common fund, but it is essentially against any State funding at all. The Report reads: We do not specifically recommend the principle of direct state support for the financing of political parties and of electoral campaigns. We in LALIT do not think parties should be funded by the State at all.
But Leung Shing does not stick to his guns. As though under immense pressure (we can guess where from, knowing the conflicts between the MMM and MSM on these issues!), he then adds: However, the Committee is of the view that should such a policy be adopted in Mauritius, it should be under the supervision and control of the ESC and the state may assist parties financially in working out a long-term policy. And, he even goes into the minute details, that this funding could go to those who get more than 10% of the vote. Ditto for election campaign expenditures, where the ESC reimburses 10% of candidates and 20% of parties expenses if they have gained 20% and 10% respectively of the votes. Plus the Committee agrees with compensating the Opposition parties. And no funding from foreigners, religious organizations, parastatals, or pressure groups that the ESC believes are promoting extreme views.
All in all, it seems that Leung Shing wanted a delaying tactic, and is trying for one. On numerous occasions in his Report, he refers to how other countries and bodies took up to 6 years to work out a policy, and that his two years is not enough. It sure isnt.
What LALIT believes should be tightened up is the law relating to electoral expenditure, which as the Select Committee admits, is full of loopholes. Donations by companies to political parties also need to be declared illegal. Laws like those in France against abus des biens sociaux and traffic d influence need to be introduced. It is, of course, the right of recall that, in the long run, can help to keep MPs and Ministers from abusing the electoral process. And, in the final analysis, it is only equality in society that will drastically limit the kind of corruption that elections at present produce.