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A Long Way Gone
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As a result, even though the Act sets out penalties for not disclosing foreign funding, it is effectively unenforceable. However, after calls for state support to ensure the future viability of parties, a funding mechanism was introduced in Again there was a lack of legal clarity about the system — which is based on a Cabinet decision rather than a piece of legislation. The amount to be shared among political parties in a financial year is 0. The parties face no legal requirements to account for the money they receive and in terms of accountability the money effectively disappears into a void.
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The amounts are not insignificant. The system as it is faces several fundamental criticisms.
Firstly, it lacks transparency. No one, except the parties, knows what happens to the money once it is handed by the National Assembly. Secondly, it heavily favours the dominant party with smaller parties complaining that they are left to pick up the scraps.
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Thirdly, parties outside parliament complain that they have no access to state funds. There is a counter argument which says that parties that have little support at the ballot box do not deserve to have large wedges of public funding.
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Smaller parties tend to argue that they find themselves in a vicious circle: that a lack of funding limits their campaigning and hence they can never gain the number of seats that would produce significant funding. They argue that parties should be self-financing primarily through membership subscriptions and donations. However, it can also be argued that transparent state funding of parties helps to prevent corruption by ensuring that parties are not mainly dependent on donations from businesses seeking favours if that parties gains power.
In addition, state funding also makes it less likely for a party to become dependent on foreign funding.
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Internationally, there is no standard blueprint for state funding of parties. Many countries do not fund parties, while others use a variety of different systems. Other countries, such as Zimbabwe, are similar to Namibia — in that they allocate funds according to the proportion of seats in the lower chamber of parliament. Some, such as Malawi, only give funds to parties that passed a threshold 10 percent of support in the previous election.
While there is little regional convergence on this issue, the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections do state that the funding of political parties has to be transparent. The process of funding the parties and way the parties spend the money is overseen by the Independent Electoral Commission.