Study reveals elections cost
Most candidates who contested in the parliamentary elections in 2019 spent an average of K27 million ($36,700) on campaign.
Michigan State University, Aarhus University, the Institute of Policy Interaction and Westminster Foundation for Democracy conducted the Cost of Politics in Malawi survey.
The survey, whose results were released in Lilongwe Wednesday, shows that the amount is 140 percent of Members of Parliament (MP)’s annual salary.
Presenting the results of the report, Michigan State University Assistant Professor of Political Science, Michael Wahman, said high cost of politics limits political representation, curtails competition and spurs corruption.
Wahman said candidates running for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spent 48 percent more than candidates running for UTM and 61 percent more than candidates running for Malawi Congress Party.
He said candidates in the Southern Region spent 46 percent more than those in the Central Region and 53 percent more than for the Northern Region.
Wahman said despite the enactment of the 2018 Political Parties Act and the Prohibition of handouts, over 96 percent of candidates said at least one of them used handouts to woo voters and chiefs in their campaign in their constituencies.
“As many as 95 percent of all candidates, either strongly agree or disagree with the statement. More civic education is needed to inform voters on the implications of the handout prohibition and a majority of candidates, 53 percent, believe that the distinction between a handout and legitimate distribution of campaign material is not clear,” the report reads.
The study further revealed that an average candidate spent K5.2 million on primary party elections.
“Candidates standing in party strongholds spent more in primaries than other candidates. The most expensive primaries are those for DPP in Southern Region.
“Most important costs in primaries are costs associated with constituency development projects, meeting party structures, organising the primary, including transporting delegates, and buying party materials, including T-shirts and cloth for delegates,” the report reads.
It adds that in general elections, candidates spent most in organising rallies and other campaign activities, engaging in constituency development projects, buying party material and monitoring elections.
The study further shows that male candidates spent 14 percent more than female candidates.
Second Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Aisha Mambo, admitted that candidates spend more money during campaign.
Mambo, was, however, quick to note that spending more money is not the best qualification to usher one into office.
She said people look at the character of a person more than the money they spend during campaign.
She said the Political Parties Act came late adding that it needed more sensitisation to appreciate it.
Centre for Multiparty Democracy Chairperson, Ibrahim Matola, said the report reflects issues on the ground in as far as the political landscape is concerned.
Matola said there was need to ensure that the electoral laws are respected to ensure that the playing field is levelled.