The Regulation of Electoral Campaigns – Burkina Faso

The Regulation of Electoral Campaigns

Burkina Faso

Regulating the financing of the election campaign

While it is true that the legislature provided provisions for political parties to receive public financing for their operations and election campaigns, it must also be noted that this legislation has many shortcomings.

During election campaigns, whether presidential, legislative or municipal, each party or candidate receives public funding per the stipulations of the law. For the presidential election, the allocated amount is divided equally between competing candidates. For legislative and municipal elections, this amount is distributed in proportion to the number of lists and candidates nominated in constituencies. The ministry in charge of administering these funds assigns funding on the basis of an allocation formula defined unilaterally. For the last combined elections of 2 December 2012, the total amount allocated by the State was 500 million francs ($ 1,000,000 U.S.), 250 million CFA francs ($ 500,000 U.S.) for the legislative and municipal elections respectively. These amounts were allocated to more than fifty political parties running in the elections. For example, the parties presenting candidates in all constituencies in parliamentary elections (45 listings) received twenty million CFA francs. In addition to public funding, each party is free to seek other sources of funding, regardless of the source.

Given the nature of public financing, political life is predisposed to corruption and collusion between the business community and political parties or candidates. The law does not provide limits for electoral spending. Furthermore, it does not limit the individual donations for political activities, whether they are of foreign nationality or Burkinabè. Finally, it fails to establish effective control over the use of the public resources allocated to political parties and candidates for election campaigns.

There is little to no control over public funding. The requirement to file a report with the Court of Audits is rarely observed. Since its existence, this Court has never sanctioned a candidate or political party for non-compliance with the laws concerning the use of public campaign financing. Yet, these reports always underline numerous cases of irregularities. This poses the question of whether the Court has sufficient resources to monitor and sanction political parties given that it must operate in a country where most economic activities take place outside of established rules.

Also, the private funding of candidates and political parties is unregulated. This results in a situation where there is strong collusion between business and politics. Most of the wealthiest Burkinabè businessmen are members or supporters of the ruling party of President Compaoré (Congress for Democracy and Progress – CDP). Very few businessmen are willing to be affiliated with the political opposition.

Consequently, there is a danger that the state may eventually become the hostage of the business community which finances political actors to gain privileged access to public procurement. For example, in the months prior to the organization of the various elections, the state offers many public contracts to businessmen who are close to the ruling party. These contracts are estimated to be worth tens of billions of CFA francs.

For a portion of the public in Burkina, this is clearly a roundabout way of funding future election campaigns. In 2011, the issue of transparency regarding the funding of political activity was submitted to the Conseil Consultatif sur les Réformes Politiques (CPRC). This body concluded that there was a need to limit and control campaign spending. The CPRC was a body established in 2011 by President Compaoré following a series of socio-political crises, including a military mutiny. This mutiny forced the head of state to flee the presidential palace for a period of 24 hours. Working strategically, the president of Burkina Faso called on various components of society to hold a discussion on proposals to reform political and administrative governance. The opposition of Burkina Faso boycotted this effort on the grounds that it lacked legitimacy.

The regulation of electoral communication

Media and Communication access during the election campaign is regulated. Indeed, the Electoral Code states that campaigns take place for 21 days in the case of the presidential election and 15 days in the case of legislative and municipal elections. During this period, the Higher Council for Communication (CSC), the institution responsible for the regulation of information, works to ensure equal access for parties and candidates to public media. The CSC adopts regulations granting the same airtime to all entities involved in electoral competition. This same principle is applied to the public press. Pages of the daily state newspaper are granted to different parties and candidates equally. Private media covering the election campaign is subject to the same requirements as the public media. The CSC allocates a grant to support them. Overall, the CSC regulates the campaign very well. Frequently, it is the parties and candidates themselves that are unable to fill the total time granted to them in the media.

However, the question of regulating the period preceding the election has been raised more and more. Indeed, members of the Government, who will often be ruling party candidates in upcoming legislative and municipal elections, use and abuse this period. They regularly take advantage of the three months prior to elections to inaugurate various kinds of activities under the pretenses of fulfilling their responsibilities as members of the Government. Public television is then mobilized to cover these activities. Opposition parties and civil society organizations working on governance issues see this as a disguised campaign that breaks with the principle of equal opportunity for all candidates in an election. As a result, the CCS has drafted proposals to incorporate a provision regulating the pre-electoral campaign period into the Electoral Code, as is the case in other countries such as Senegal and Benin.

Useful links and documentary resources

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