Swapo loses N$36m in parly funding

The snowball effects of the party's poor performance have started to show in more ways than one, including a knock in its revenues.

21 January 2020 | Government

Swapo will lose about N$36 million in parliamentary funding in the 2020/21 financial year following a dismal performance in last year's National Assembly election, in which it lost 14 seats and its two-thirds majority.

The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) will see its parliamentary funding increase by N$9.58 million after the National Assembly is sworn in in March after an impressive performance that saw the party tripling its presence in parliament.

The increase in seats to 16 from five for PDM is seen as a boon for the party.

Newcomers the Landless People's Movement (LPM) will receive N$3.8 million for its four parliamentary seats won last year.

The All People's Party (APP), Republican Party (RP), Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEEF), National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) and the United Democratic Party (UDP) will all get N$1 916 000. In the 2015/16 fiscal year, political parties received N$958 000 per seat won in the National Assembly during the 2014 general election.

Using the 2015/16 figures, PDM will then get N$15 million a year, while Swapo will see its funding drop to N$60.3 million.

Political parties received a total of N$114 million in parliamentary funding in the 2015/16 fiscal year, with Swapo getting the lion's share of N$96 million.

Despite the boost his party is now going to get, PDM treasurer Nico Smit felt the playing field needed to be levelled even more and that parties should get funding based on a flat rate.

When asked what the formula was, he said it was based on the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country multiplied by 0.0002%.

“There must be a different way to calculate party funding.

The large amount parties get must be a flat rate, while the smaller portion should be based on the number of seats a party has won,” Smit said.

According to him, his party now had more money to carry out its activities but no amount of money, however large, would be sufficient for political parties to carry out their plans.

Commentators felt that opposition parties would have to use the increased funding smartly, as this could help them build a support base.

Academic Ndumba Kamwanyah said opposition parties, more especially the PDM, would have more money for campaign purposes.

“One of the things affecting political parties is the funding that they are given. When you have more funding it will help political parties get out and campaign more with the electorate,” Kamwanyah said.

He cautioned that the monies allocated would have to be used prudently and for the intended purposes.

“Political funding will have a good impact if it is used for the purposes it is intended for. There is no guarantee that increased funding will have a positive impact for political parties. It will depend on how it is used,” Kamwanyah said.

Political commentator Hoze Riruako feels that opposition political parties are not yet mature enough and that the money will not necessarily assist them to grow their voter bases.

“Opposition parties still have a long way to go. The idea is not so much the money, but smart campaigning. Opposition parties must join the information highway and go to where the young voters are.

“It is not about the money, but sending out a message that will resonate with the young voters,” he added.

Riruako is not confident that the PDM will be able to grow its supporter base in the next five years, despite the boost in funding.

“Two things helped the PDM, one being the independent candidate Dr Panduleni Itula and protest votes that it got from Swapo. Whether these votes can be sustained is anybody's guess,” Riruako said.

He, however, said the increased funding the PDM stands to gain will also help it with its campaign efforts in the run-up to elections in 2024, as well as the upcoming regional and local authority polls this year.

“It will help the PDM because they now have more money to campaign,” he said.

Riruako also advised smaller political parties to actively campaign, even in the absence of an election year, saying: “Political parties must get out of their comfort zones. Smaller parties should not wait for the last minute,” he said.

LPM deputy leader Henny Seibeb feels that newly established parties should be funded in an election year to help them with campaigning.

“It is a good thing to support democracy to level the playing field, but the same should be extended beyond political parties not necessarily represented in parliament, especially during election years. New political parties are heavily affected, as no one wants to invest in them,” he said.

The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) last year questioned the funding government allocates to political parties.

“The dramatic increase of party finance from the state came at a time when the Namibian government was already in a tight spot, financially speaking,” it said.

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