An insight into the expenses involved during our electoral campaigns in Mauritius

According to our law, a candidate member of a party or an alliance is limited to not spending more than Rs 150,000 in a general election. An independent candidate cannot spend more than Rs 250,000. In other local elections there are other limits on campaign expenditure. This amount appears to be largely insufficient and does not tally with today’s economic realities. The expenses incurred for an electoral campaign is for more than the amount prescribed. Exactly how is money spent during the electoral campaign by the big parties? Below we can see an illustration of some of the main expenses involved during the course of electoral campaigns.

“Rencontre”
Usually a “rencontre” with selected influential families does not cost a cent but it is to note that the rapport between the candidates and families will be so intense that candidates are expected to have their doors opened whenever they are knocked upon by those families for themselves or their friends. If those families are not well off, then the expenses involved at a “rencontre” is borne by the candidate themselves. A “rencontre” costs normally around Rs 3000 and involves tea, water, soft drinks, biscuits, other drinks, cups and glasses.

Banners
A banner has lifetime of not more than 3 days. For a particular constituency, a minimum of 1000 banners is needed per constituency and this would amount to 20,000 banners for 20 constituencies. A banner cost around Rs 500.00 each. Hence 20, 000 banners cost at about Rs 10 million rupees.

Constituency Meetings
The minimum number of meetings in 1 constituency for 30 days would be (30 x 4 daily meetings) 120. In each of the meeting the following expenses are involved:

Hence meetings in 20 constituencies over 30 days during the electoral campaign cost approximately around Rs 48 million.

Cars
On polling day there are approximately 10 schools where voting is done requiring a minimum of at least 4 tables which are placed near each school. Each of those tables has 4 cars affiliated to them. So just to cover one school 16 cars are needed. For a whole constituency, at least 160 cars are needed just for polling day. The cost of running one car per day is approximately Rs 2000 which includes the rental fee, driver and petrol. In total the cost of cars in a single constituency is as follows:

The cost of cars in 20 constituencies is approximately around Rs 27, 400,000.

Buses and Vans for National Meetings
Buses and vans are normally provided free of charge for the electorate to attend National meetings of political parties. To cover 10 schools in a constituency at least 5 buses are needed although the target is 10.  Sometimes more than this is needed as often bus or van owners prefer to carry only their friends and relatives as the rally is normally followed by a “picnic”.

The above figure of Rs 2,575,000 represents the cost involved for arrangements in only one constituency. For 20 constituencies, the expenses involved are approximately Rs 51,500,000.

Food
On polling day, in one constituency arrangement for food (breakfast, lunch and tea) is easily made for 1500 people if not more. For one person at least Rs 200.00 is needed to cater for his food. For 1500 people in 1 constituency, this makes a total of Rs 300,000.Hence the cost of food for 20 constituencies for polling day is around Rs 6 million.

Manifesto
The Manifesto is an important tool in a general election. It has taken more magnitude following the advent of independent radios as political parties are pinned down to a certain extent to specify their policies. The manifesto is a document upon which a victorious alliance or party base itself to prepare the Presidential speech which sets the tone for the incoming government. The government will use the manifesto to justify its policies and legislative changes.  The opposition often uses the manifesto to make the government account for their failure to implement policies as expounded in the manifesto.
Given its importance, the manifesto is usually one of the high marks of an electoral campaign. It can make or break a political party which can even become a laughing stock if proposals are outlandish. In every constituency, a sizeable amount of electors request for a hardcopy of the manifesto although one can easily access it via a party’s website. For each constituency at least 500 manifestos are published therefore making it 10,000 manifestos for 20 constituencies. Note that today political parties use very well designed & glossy manifestos. The cost of printing and publishing one single manifesto is about Rs 500.  10, 000 manifestos cost Rs 5 million rupees.

Ballot papers
Ballot paper is a misnomer. It is in fact a special pamphlet which, amongst others, contains the candidate’s full name, number and symbol which will be in black and white so that the voters are accustomed with the actual ballot paper. The most important feature of a pamphlet is that it must be personal to the voter containing his/her name, code number, class and school where the voter will vote. The ballot paper is usually hand delivered by agents who are accustomed or have been briefed on, for example, the history of the party and why a particular candidate is better equipped to represent a constituency and all of us nationally. The cost of a pamphlet is about Rs 3.00 each. In 2010, we had about 880,000 electors in Mauritius. The cost of a personalized pamphlet amounts to approximately Rs 2, 640,000.
If all this is properly done, with the right feedback coupled with the phoning in by leaders of parties/ alliance, the balance can be tilted especially where marginal seats are concerned.  This task is carried by around 200 agents in a constituency who cover around 8000 houses in a week. Great care must be taken to prepare and distribute the ballot papers. The cost of one agent for one of work is about Rs 200.Over, 7 days an agent will have to be given about (7 x 200) Rs 1400. 200 agents would mean that the cost involved for the distribution of pamphlets in constituency amounts to Rs 280,000. For 20 constituencies the cost of distribution of pamphlets amounts to approximately Rs. 5.6 million.

Auto Annonce
One of the most obdurate features of our elections is the “allo allo cars”. One constituency would normally consist of 5 auto annonce positioned at markets, playgrounds, social centres and bus stop among others.  The hiring of a car is around Rs 2000 per day (including sound systems, banners, flags, leaflets). Over 30 days this would amount to around Rs 60,000 for one car and hence Rs 300,000 for 5 cars.
5 agents are normally attached to one car. About Rs 1500 are spent a day on those agents  ,for example, in providing cigarettes, phone cards, chewing gum, food & drinks etc. So the cost of agent for 5 cars in day would be Rs 7,500 thus making it Rs 225,000 for 5 cars.
As far as petrol is concerned as the cars move constantly during the day, at least Rs 1000 must be kept for one car for a day. Over 30 days this amounts to Rs 30,000and for 5 cars the total amount of money spent on petrol is about Rs 150,000.
From the above, we can see that to keep 5 auto annonce running over 30 days, at least (300000 + 225000 + 150000) Rs 675,000 is needed in one constituency. In 20 constituencies auto annonce costs is about Rs 13.5 million rupees.

Bases
The objectives of “bases” are as follows:
a) To keep grass roots contact within a very limited area within a ward of the constituency;
b) To organise meetings;
c) To keep an eye on the opponent & their movements and immediately inform the chief agent or one of the candidates;
d) To distribute pamphlets/ ballot papers;
e) To affix posters/banners /oriflammes;
f) To know who is sick/has passed away/not in the country or at what time a senior citizen will be given transport facilities to vote on the polling day;
g) To cajole angry agent and families so as to bring them back to the fold;
h) To fill buses for the different rallies;
The amount of bases per constituency can vary from 20 to 100. It does not depend on whether the seat is marginal or not as there are other consideration within the same alliance. For instance, increasing the amount of vote from the last election can bring instant recognition from members of cabinet, front benchers or back benchers. The cost involved in setting up and maintaining bases can be enormous as shown in the table below. The calculations are based upon running 1 base for 30 days with an average of 25 people.

National Meetings Rally
Below is an estimate of costs for organising national meetings:

Publicity
Publicity in itself can reach the following figures during the election campaign:

PROPOSALS
After general elections, elected or not, every candidate must declare before a magistrate under oath how much they have spent or how much their agent had spent on their behalf. Clearly as seen above, the prescribed spending limit is not respected by nearly all the candidates in every general election. The financial limits are raped with zeal and eagerness by impotent officers of the police force and members of the electoral supervisors or commission. Thus, the Public can has a foretaste how laws will be respected by those they vote in office.
The worst part is that the statement is signed and declared as being true before the magistrate despite that it is known to everybody as being false. One of the rare persons who refused to take part in that pantomime was Guy Ollivry following the bye-elections of 1993 in Rose-Hill. We propose the following to mitigate the power of money & corruption in politics;
a) To scrap altogether the statutory limits;
b) Ban on certain kinds of expenditure;

OR Alternatively:
a)    The Electoral Supervisors Commission should have the power, after public consultation, to review the expenditure ceiling every four years;
b) All expenditures whether by the candidate, agent, friend, well-wisher or any other expenses incurred in any political activity on behalf of the candidate/agent by any individual or any association of person be it ‘societe’, company, trust, corporate entity or any organisation whether profit making, charitable organisation youth club or otherwise must be declared;
c) All the expenses returns supported by the receipt and audits reports shall be duly publicized in two major daily newspapers chosen well in advance by the electoral supervisory commission;
d) There should be a mechanism which will check and audit the returns of the expenditure of all candidates.
It must be noted that the above figures are the strict minimum that has to be spent by a party in in order to have a fighting chance in elections. This is why no independent candidate has been able to emerge since independence. It is proposed that any party registered with the electoral commission having a:
a) A democratic structure;
b) An accountable system of financing;
c) An auditor & external auditor who must be approved by the electoral commission.
And having polled more than 20% of the electorate in the last general elections should be eligible to State
Funds. All parties having passed the cap of 20% should have the following:
a) Yearly allocation of Rs 500,000 which will meet the running cost of their headquarters;
b) An allocation for research of Rs 300,000;
c) The parties will be qualified for duty free exemption on:
i. Office equipment;
ii. Buidling/construction materials;
iii. Transport restricted to not more than two vehicles for every three years;
d) State land without costs to build their headquarters & regional quarters;
e) 25 rupees per year on per vote obtained in elections.

The accounts of the party will have to be published annually. Parties should be bound to publish on a regular basis any contribution of more than Rs25, 000 coming from an individual or a society/company/organisation/trade union or from any legal entity…