statement by UDM Deputy Secretary
The United Democratic Movement has been asked to forward comments in writing with regard to the proposed amendments to the Electoral Bill in particular and we would like to comment on certain aspects with regard to party funding.
The proposal in this regard does not do anything to address the fundamental inequality that is created by act 103 of 1996, the Funding of Political Parties Represented in Parliament Act. (state funds, at present budgeted somewhere in the vicinity of R53 million).The funds can be allocated to practically any political purpose, with the only real restriction that it should not be used to pay parliamentarians.
Therefore, quite clearly, these funds can be used for election purposes, and is in fact intended to be used as such. Although couched in terms which created the impression that it should be used for administrative purposes, such uses frees other donations and funds of such parties for use in election campaigning. In any event, there is no limitation on these funds being directly allocated to campaigns.
If this act had to be in position during the 1994 election. It would have meant that practically all the money would have been allocated to the National Party and no funds allocated to the African National Congress, which was then not represented in Parliament. If a similar provision had been in place prior to the last election in the United Kingdom, it would have meant the bulk of the funds would have been allocated to the Conservative Party, which then had the majority in Parliament, and much less to the Labour Party, which won by a landslide, and result might have been different if the ruling party had access to the state funds in proportion to the representation that it had before the election.
In cases where there is a delicate balance between the parties, especially in relation to a sensitive issue such as the two thirds majority, the availability of funds might make a substantial difference in the eventual outcome of the election and consequently also to the manner in which the country is governed.
Thus to provide funds to those parties represented in Parliament as is presently enacted, substantially affects the operation of multi-party democracy in South Africa.
According to opinion polls the United Democratic Movement already can rely on support equivalent to, and surpassing that of, parties already represented in parliament. It would therefore be a fundamental disadvantage if a party like the DP, with 5% support should receive funds from the fund created by Act 103, and a party like the UDM, also with at least 5% support, receives nothing. Similarly it would be unfair if the DP, with 5% current support, received 1% of the funds based on its support 5 years ago, and a party with 1% current support received 20% of the fund, based on its support 5 years ago. The funding could thus lead to fundamental distortions in parties’ capacity to campaign.
The proposed allocation of election funds to all parties does nothing to redress this imbalance. According to the proposal it would mean that parties represented in Parliament would then receive monies twice: Once through Act 103 (and probably a substantial amount at that), and then again in terms of the proposed clause 106, whereas parties are not represented would only receive monies in terms of clause 106 .
The only way in which a free and fair election can be possible, accepting the existence of act 103 of 1996, is if the election act makes provision for the further funding of parties that are not represented in Parliament, with reference to the monies already allocated to parties represented in Parliament. Thus it should be a balancing provision.
In the absence of this, the IEC cannot certify that a fair election has taken place.
It might be free, but it cannot be a fair election if some parties are benefiting from state funds where other parties have no access to similar funding.
A further objection that the UDM has to this clause, is that it is of no practical assistance to anybody. In the first place the 5% seems to be intended to cover the required deposits, and it makes absolutely no sense for the state to require money as a deposit and also to provide for it in this manner. The rest of the (95%) fund that will be available after election will be of no use for election purposes if it cannot be accessed during the campaign. It will also not serve as any leverage for the purposes of obtaining finance as nobody is likely to advance monies against the future uncertainty as the possible outcome of an election, no matter what the predictions and polls might indicate.
The only situation that will alleviate the present imbalance is if Parliament allocated funds to the parties not represented in Parliament with reference to the support that a particular party has: both those represented and those not represented, and that the second fund thereafter is applied in such a manner as to ensure that parties are funded, as nearly as possible, proportional to their current support.