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Poor access to political finance negatively impacts participation of opposition parties in Electoral processes

In terms of its 2013 Constitution, Zimbabwe holds local government, parliamentary and presidential elections every five years. Election comes with high costs and expenses on the election body ZEC. The financial pressure of elections is not only on ZEC but is also felt by the participating political parties as institutions, and individuals.

While ZEC gets most of its funding from the central government and technical partners like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), political parties have to source their own funding. An important source of funding exists for those political parties that qualify for treasury funding through the Political Parties (Finance) Act (Chapter 2:11). The relevant provisions of the Act provide as follows:

“Subject to this Act, every political party shall be entitled in each parliamentary year to receive from the State sums of money that are payable to it in terms of this Act.”
Political Parties (Finance) Act (Chapter 2:11)

Parties must however meet the criterion set out in the Act.

In light of this provision, only Zanu-PF and MDC qualified for funding after the 2013 general election. according to the then party’s Secretary General, Douglas Mwonzora MDC received US$1.8 million in June 2018, before the elections in July. The amount seems big however it is not enough to pay administrative costs for running a political party, let alone fund a proper election campaign in an election year.

In general, a Zimbabwean party needs not less than US$30 million to fund an effective campaign for its presidential, parliamentary and local government candidates. According to a report called “Mortgaging the Future in Return for Power: Zimbabwe’s Natural Resources and the 2018 Election” done by Center for Natural Resource Governance political parties spent around US$5 million on election day expenses like training and deployment of election party agents. In a country where money plays a pivotal role in politics, the budget for election campaigns for political parties has become more demanding, even for parties that get some form of support from treasury. It’s difficult for private players to participate. Poor access to political finance weakens democratic consolidation and negatively impacts the participation of less resourced candidates who are unable to self-fund.