Cost of politics

Research conducted in 2021 and 2022 into the costs of politics in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras supported by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in partnership with Hans Seidel Stiftung has shown how a combination of weakly enforced campaign finance regulation, voter expectations and the increasing influence of criminal gangs over politics are contributors to the rising costs of seeking political office.

The Zambia Cost of Politics Survey (ZCPS) examines campaign finance in the Zambian 2021 parliamentary election. Observers of Zambian politics have long voiced concerns about the extent to which parliamentary elections are characterised by lavish spending and high levels of clientelism. Expensive campaigns have the potential to skew political competition in favour of political parties with access to state resources, reduce female representation, and distort political representation to the detriment of pro-poor policies.

Many Ugandans – particularly women and young people – are excluded from entering and participating in politics because they cannot afford it, new research published on 28 October 2020 by the Public Policy Institute (PPI), Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD) finds.

Since independence in 1965, The Gambia has held periodic multi-party elections. But it had never registered an electoral turnover of power until December 2016 when independent presidential aspirant Adama Barrow, backed by seven opposition political parties, defeated the incumbent, Yahya Jammeh. Following the defeat of Jammeh – whose 22-year dictatorship was characterised by attacks on democratic freedoms – the political environment has become increasingly competitive.

Politics on the island of Mauritius is considered a national sport, one which generates both passion and excitement among the population. However, much of what takes place remains behind closed doors or within private spheres. This culture of secrecy is most tangible when it comes to what is termed as ‘money politics’ – the undue use of money during an electoral campaign. The practice of contributions to the coffers of political parties has a long history in Mauritius.

Members of Parliament (MPs) in Kenya are amongst the highest paid in the world relative to the size of the economy. Parliamentary seats are among the most sought-after positions in society, bringing the holder wealth and social standing. In recent years, there has been an increasing trend whereby those in lucrative senior private sector positions leave, in pursuit of the perceived comfort and stature of public or political office.

The Malawi Candidate Survey (MCS) studies the costs of seeking and holding parliamentary office in Malawi. It follows similar studies conducted by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) in Ghana, Nigeria, and Benin. This presentation will focus on the costs associated with running for parliament. High costs of politics limits political representation, curtails competition, and spurs corruption.