Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has adopted US’s Barack Obama’s people-funded campaign technique by calling on followers to contribute K100 or more to the party’s 2014 elections.
Political experts have since hailed the party for the move, arguing it might be a popularity test other than a sound of distress.
The party this week flooded social media with requests for people to contribute K100 or more in a fundraising campaign dubbed ‘Tambala Appeal’ with a slogan ‘Nothing for us without us’.
While acknowledging the existence of the campaign, MCP head of fundraising Lekani Loga refused to give details about the fundraising technique, saying he was not mandated to speak on behalf of the party.
He, however, said the individual contributions could be more than K100.
“I have no mandate to speak on behalf of the party and my president and secretary general [president Dr Lazarus Chakwera and secretary general Dr Chris Daza respectively] who are mandated to speak on behalf of the party are outside the country,” he said.
Posters circulating on social media say MCP is a party of the people by the people and for the people, and call on people to own the campaign.
Among other things, MCP is asking well-wishers to contribute funds for procurement and distribution of campaign materials, compensating MCP monitors and observers during the election, meeting campaign rallies expenditures and payment of costs for primary elections.
“If you believe that the reborn MCP can bring back the lost glory, transform Malawi from the current ‘winner takes all’ to ‘prosperity for all’ join and support the campaign”, reads one of the posters.
Chancellor College political scientist Blessing Chinsinga said on Friday MCP was on the right path to political funding, but said “it was only a first step”.
Chinsinga said MCP’s strategy of encouraging members to contribute towards its campaign was a way of making people own the party unlike the current system where few rich individuals finances the party.
“This strategy will help to avoid the party getting captured for returns by few rich individuals who supported the party once it wins elections,” he said.
However, Chinsinga said the request for funding would also be a measure of the popularity of the party’s policies as it campaigns.
“What matters is whether the message that MCP is sending is resonating with the wishes of the people. Why should I fish out my K100 when I do not agree with their policies? This is just the beginning; what matters is the message,” he said.
MCP’s call for funding from its followers may evoke memories of membership cards that earned the party notoriety during its three decades at the helm of government.
However, a 2012 study commissioned by the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) established that membership subscriptions are potentially a viable alternative to the risky and problematic party funding by a few influential individuals.
There is consensus among experts in political finance that membership subscriptions are the best model for party funding with respect to entrenching democracy at both party and national levels.
The argument is that membership fees help to strengthen linkages between political parties and their members, thereby enhancing transparency, accountability and responsiveness in parties.
However, with the decline of the mass party model of party organisation and mobilisation, membership subscriptions have fallen off all over the world as the primary means for parties to raise resources.
CMD executive director Kizito Tenthani said the move taken by MCP would encourage transparency and accountability within the party, which is good for the grouping’s intra-democracy.
“It is a good development when it comes to political funding. People will own the campaign and demand transparency and accountability. Survival of political parties is in the people’s contribution,” he said.
Tenthani said the strategy would empower the contributors to demand accountability for the money from leaders.
“The strategy offers a good and more meaningful alternative to few individuals funding a political party,” he said.
The development could chnage Malawi’s record as one of the countries in Africa and across the world that have weak political finance regimes both in terms of distributing funding to parties and regulating it.
The Global Integrity 2011 study rated Malawi zero out of 100 when it comes to accountability and transparency on political party finding.
“Malawi scored 0 out of 100 as a direct result of the country’s complete lack of political finance regulation for political parties and individual political candidates.
Disclosure of party and candidate political finance information to the public is non-existent (0 out of 100).The scores place the country as one of the lowest scoring ever on the Global Integrity Report,” reads part of the report.