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Political Financing Bill Mirrors 2019 Rejected Version



Political Financing Bill Mirrors 2019 Rejected Version
Image source: Defi Media

Major changes have been made in the amount of fines, which was Rs 1 million in the 2019 version and has now been increased to Rs 5 million.

The Political Financing Bill and the Constitutional Amendment Bill, aimed at granting more powers to the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC) and the Electoral Commissioner, were published on the Prime Minister’s Office website on Monday evening.

Pravind Jugnauth has given the public two weeks (until May 13) to submit their opinions and comments on these bills in order to potentially make amendments.

The Prime Minister’s goal is to present and initiate debates on these two bills, which are closely related, in Parliament as soon as possible before the general elections.

The Political Financing Bill is almost identical to the 2019 version that was presented in July 2019, four months before the general elections on November 7, 2019, but was not adopted due to a lack of the three-quarter majority needed to pass amendments to the Constitution. Public financing remains absent, as it was in 2019.

The main changes include the increase in fines from Rs 1 million in the 2019 version to Rs 5 million. The Electoral Commissioner will also have greater powers than in the 2019 version, as they will be able to order searches, among other powers.

Here are the main points of the 2024 version of the Political Financing Bill:

  1. Registration of political parties: Currently, political parties are not legal entities as they are not registered anywhere. The bill proposes that each political party be registered with the Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC). To be registered, a political party must submit an application to the ESC.
  2. An application for registration of a political party must include the party’s name and symbol, official address, names, signatures, and residential addresses of the leader, president, secretary, treasurer, and other officials, proof that the party has a bank account, among other requirements. Once a writ of election is issued, the ESC will no longer be able to register any political party after a period of five days until the proclamation of results. The ESC may reject the application if it believes that all criteria have not been met. In case of dispute, party officials can appeal to the Supreme Court, which must make a decision within 14 days. If a registration application is rejected within five days of the writ of election being published, the judge must make a decision no later than two days before Nomination Day, provided that an appeal of the ESC’s decision is lodged in the Supreme Court within 24 hours of the rejection.
  3. Each political party must submit their audited accounts at the end of each financial year to the ESC. The accounts must contain all details of each donation, donor, as well as the party’s assets and debts. The accounts must be submitted within 60 days after the end of each financial year. The treasurer who does not comply with the legal provisions faces a fine of Rs 5 million. The Electoral Commissioner will make all Statements of Accounts accessible for public viewing.
  4. Regarding financing, no political donation can be made to a party or individual if they are not registered. Any person receiving a donation on behalf of their party must hand it over to the leader or treasurer within seven days, along with all necessary information for the donation to be recorded. This also applies to in-kind donations. Anyone not complying with these provisions of the law risks a fine of Rs 5 million.
  5. Several types of donations will be prohibited, including donations from anonymous individuals, state-owned enterprises, and religious institutions, among others.
  6. A recipient must also not accept a political donation that they know, or should reasonably know, to be derived from the proceeds of a crime. A recipient who accepts a political donation in violation of these clauses commits an offense and upon conviction, may be subject to a fine not exceeding Rs 5 million. The legislation also specifies that when the Electoral Commissioner has reasonable grounds to suspect that a political donation made to a recipient originates from the proceeds of a crime, they must refer the matter to the appropriate investigative body for further inquiry.
  7. Private Donations: No private entity should make a donation to a recipient unless there is a resolution authorizing it to do so. A private entity making a political donation must disclose the amount of the donation to the recipient in its financial statement. Any financial donation from a private entity must be made by check or electronic means. A private entity that fails to comply with these provisions of the law risks a fine of Rs 5 million.
  8. Registry of Political Donations: Every recipient of a donation, whether it be a party, a member of parliament, an agent, or an unelected candidate, must maintain a Register of Political Donations. While political parties must update it with each donation, including details of at least two donors, others must maintain it during the election campaign.
  9. Report by the Electoral Commissioner: The Electoral Commissioner will be required to prepare a report containing all the details of each party’s accounts, including every donation, membership registration fees, interests, cash or in-kind donations, amounts available in bank accounts, as well as the names of banks and debts.
  10. The report must be submitted within 120 days after the end of each financial year.
  11. Investigative Powers: The Electoral Commissioner will have the authority to investigate all matters related to political financing and may summon any person deemed necessary for the investigation, request any necessary information, and may compel individuals to testify under oath. Anyone summoned must appear before the Electoral Commissioner or face a fine of Rs 5 million for refusal. The Electoral Commissioner may issue a warrant authorizing an officer to enter and search premises at any reasonable time. This search must be conducted, “as far as possible,” in the presence of the premises’ owner. The officer appointed by the Electoral Commissioner may confiscate anything deemed necessary for the investigation.
  12. Election Expenditures: The legislation proposes amending the Representation of the People Act to increase election expenditures. During an election campaign, the permissible threshold will be Rs 1 million per constituency per party or alliance, and Rs 1 million per candidate of a party with more than one candidate. If a party or individual runs independently, the threshold will be Rs 1.5 million. For municipal elections, the threshold will be Rs 300,000 per candidate and Rs 200,000 for a village council election.
  13. Currently, under Article 51 of the Representation of People Act 1958, a candidate from a party has a spending limit of Rs 250,000 for general elections. The expenditure limit for an independent candidate is set at Rs 150,000.
  14. Political “Baz”: No party, group, or candidate can establish more than one political headquarters per electoral constituency, district, village, or local region, as applicable, and no more than one sectoral base, commonly known as a “baz,” per polling station for election purposes.

Source: Defi Plus

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