Published on 02 Jul 2012 at 01:11
Money plays a role in the political process in all countries, regardless of region, political experiences and ideological and religious identities. The International IDEA database of political finance regulations found at least some rules put in place to regulate these issues in all of the 180 countries included.
This is not to say that all countries necessarily regulate money in politics (also known as “political finance”) in the same way. This article explores the experience of political finance regulations in the 43 countries around the world included in the database where a majority of the population is of the Muslim faith.
The most common bans regarding contributions in Muslim-majority countries are bans on foreign donations and donations that come from state resources or that are anonymous, as seen in the table below. A majority of the countries do not however place a limit on the amounts that eligible donors are allowed to contribute. Afghanistan, Egypt and Uzbekistan are the only countries that ban donations from trade unions to election candidates (in all three countries, all forms of legal entities are banned from contributing).
Over half of the Muslim-majority countries provide direct and indirect funding to political parties, though the amounts being distributed vary. In general, political parties and candidates in these countries tend to mainly depend on funds that they can raise from private sources (including their own funds).
Mali and Niger make a connection between the provision of public funding and the gender balance among the parties’ candidates. In both these countries, 10% of the available state funds are divided among the political parties that have women candidates elected to public posts.
Almost all Muslim-majority countries ban vote buying and abuse of state resources. In contrast, only 14% impose spending limits on political parties, though half have such limits for the spending by candidates. Most Muslim-majority countries demand that political parties and candidates submit financial reports in relation to their activities.
What exactly does “public funding” mean? Public funding refers to the campaign funding or regular political party funding supplied by the government to eligible candidates or political parties.
Public funding to electoral candidates and political parties does not exist in Afghanistan.
In general, Muslim-majority countries do not vary significantly from the global experience. Bans on anonymous donations are more common in Muslim-majority countries than in other countries, but they are less likely to ban donations from trade unions to candidates. Annual contribution limits and spending limits for political parties are less common in Muslim-majority countries (but not regarding candidates), and it is also somewhat less common that political parties and candidates in these countries have to report about their finances.
Overall however, the variation of regulations within the group of Muslim-majority countries is significantly larger than the variation between this group and other countries. Countries such as Malaysia, Nigeria and Syria have very few regulations on how money can be used in politics. In contrast, countries such as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan impose fairly strict limitations on how money can be raised and spent.
Like most countries around the world, the main challenges regarding effective oversight of the role that money plays in the politics of Muslim-majority countries lies in the implementation, not in the formal rules.
 Data about religious allegiances is taken from the PEW Forum on Religion & Public Life. See http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/Mapping-the-Global-Muslim-Population(18).aspx. Brunei Darussalam, Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates are not included in the IDEA database since they did not allow political parties to register at the time the database was created, or (in the case of Somalia) had held no national elections during the last 35 years.
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