Political Finance Database

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About the Database

International IDEA’s Political Finance Database  is the leading global resource of comparative political finance data for those interested in money in politics and has been since its launch in 2003.

The political finance landscape is increasingly complex and continuously evolving. The database questions were revised to capture this reality in 2012, 2016, 2018 and most recently in 2020. In 2018, the database also included information concerning the practical implementations of political finance, which made the questions 74 in total. But systematically tracking and administering practical information proved less reliable, so a part of the 2020 revision has been to streamline the database by dismantling them.

The database questions were revised to capture this reality in 2012, 2016, and most recently in 2020. As of the 2020 update, the number of research questions is now 63. This is an evolution from the previous 43 questions in 2016, in an effort to capture a comprehensive overview of political finance regulations. The database now includes information on topics like candidate finance, vote buying, asset disclosure and gender-targeted public funding.

As of the 2020 update, the number of research questions is now 63 in total. This is an evolution from the original 43 questions in 2016, an active effort to capture a comprehensive overview of political finance regulations. The database includes information on topics like candidate finance, vote buying, asset disclosure, online media spending and gender-targeted public funding.

Throughout the 2020 update, 45 countries have been updated with 2019 datasets, i.e. featuring changes that took place before the end of December 2019. The countries updated are done so based on suggestions from experts and internal reviews. For countries whose political finance has not been altered, the 2018 data reflect the latest changes. There is always the risk that we have missed a country’s recent updates; if so, please let us know and we will look into it carefully.

The database provides answers to fundamental questions on political finance within four broad categories: a) Bans and Limits on Private Income, b) Public Funding, c) Regulations on Spending d) Reporting, Oversight and Sanctions. Users can search the comprehensive database by country, region, or question as well as customize and download the data.

The Political Finance Database provides country-specific data, which can be viewed for a single country or comparatively, allowing the user to view the prevalence of different regulations and provisions between countries and regions. It is our intention that the database is used by all who are interested in how money in politics is regulated, but in particular legislators, regulators, political party officials, civil society activists, journalists, and concerned citizens.

The Political Finance Database is a repository of political finance regulations. As with many areas of public policy, the passing of a law does not automatically bring compliance. Globally, scandals regarding money and politics illustrate that laws are breached, and loopholes exploited. In other situations, governments may ignore or abuse regulations to further their own interests. These facts do not negate the value of collecting the global political finance regulations, it simply means that we cannot assume that these provisions are adhered to or enforced in a manner we might anticipate. Without regulations, there is nothing to adhere to or enforce; these provisions present the natural starting point for any study of money in politics.

Please note that the database is updated based on trusted open sources and to the best of our knowledge. As the world of political finance is one in constant motion, we cannot always guarantee that the data is completely error-free. Users are always welcome to make suggestions or raise concerns regarding the data by sending an email to politicalfinancedb@idea.int.

1. Bans and limits on private income

The first section looks at bans on who can contribute to political parties and candidates and how these donations are limited.

2. Public funding

The second section covers the provision of direct and indirect public funding available to political parties and candidates.

3. Regulations on spending

The third section deals with the rules for how much and on what political parties and candidates can spend money.

4. Reporting, oversight, and sanctions

The fourth section addresses the requirements for financial reporting, oversight of political finance regulations and the sanctions that are available for breaches.

 

Abuse of state resources
The use of state and public sector powers and resources by incumbent politicians or political parties to further their own prospects of election, in violation of legal and/or other norms and responsibilities governing the exercise of public office.
Allocation calculation
Deals on how public funding is distributed between those that have a right to receive it. Ways of calculating how public funding should be provided could be: either equally to all eligible political parties, or in proportion to, for example, seats or votes won. Most common is a combination of the two.
Anonymous donations
Support, contributions or donations to political parties and/or candidates where the identity of the donor or contributor is not disclosed.
Auditing agency
The body responsible for reviewing the political parties and/or candidates' financial statements declaring their income, expenditure and assets and to monitor their accounts. Such financial reports are often submitted to the auditing agency on an annual basis or specifically in relation to the electoral campaign.
Ban on contributions
A prohibition to limit the influx of money or other types of support given a candidate's campaign or political party by an individual or an organization.
Campaign finance
Financial transactions, to political parties or candidates, related to an electoral campaign which could include formal, financial, or in-kind donations or expenditures.
Contribution limit
A maximum amount of money that an individual, organization or political party may contribute to a candidate's campaign or to a political party annually or per election period.
Corporate donations
Support, contributions or donations to political parties and/or candidates from entities such as corporations, companies and/or business enterprises.
Direct Public Funding
Government provision of money or subsidies to political parties or candidates during election campaigns or for regular party financing.
Disclosure
The obligation that political parties and candidates must provide certain financial information, submit reports or make financial statements regularly (often annually) or in relation to an election campaign. Reports should be submitted to the relevant body which often is the electoral management body, government auditing agency or electoral enforcement agency. The disclosure sometimes includes the requirement of revealing the identity of the donors.
Donations/contributions
A gift taking various forms such as cash, services or anything else of value given from an individual or an organization with the purpose of supporting a certain political party or candidate.
Earmarking
A provision that direct public funding provided to political parties must only be used for certain purposes such as for election campaign purposes; ongoing party activities (administration, public awareness campaigns, policy platform development, voter interaction or membership drives) or for the use of particular institutions within political parties, such as youth or women's wings or research/policy institutions within parties.
Electoral campaign period
A specified period of time during which official campaigning is regulated.
Eligibility
The right of political parties (and in some cases candidates) to the provision of direct public funding based on criteria such as having representation in an elected body; winning a certain share of votes in the previous or in the next election; holding a certain share of seats in parliament won either in the previous or in the next election; based on the number of candidates presented by the party (in the preceding or forthcoming election). The criteria often include a certain percentage that must be fulfilled.
Enforcement agency
The controlling body in charge of monitoring that political parties and candidates act in compliance with the financial legislation in place. The responsible agency could be the national Electoral Management Body, a specially created body or a government department.
Enhanced due diligence
Enhanced due diligence are requirements for banks and financial institutions to use “policies, procedures, and processes for obtaining customer information and assess the value of this information in detecting, monitoring, and reporting suspicious activity”, going beyond regular provisions for due diligence. These are applied towards political actors to mitigate the risk of corrupt practices and money laundering.
Equitable playing field
Candidates competing for election have different abilities to fundraise and receive campaign contributions with which they will run their campaigns. In order to level the playing field, the State can provide public funding and, furthermore, make it conditional.
Foreign interests
In order to limit influence over national politics to forces within the country, it is quite common to ban foreign interests from making donations to political parties. Among the entities prohibited to contribute directly or indirectly are governments, corporations, organizations or individuals who are not citizens; that do not reside in the country or have a large share of foreign ownership.
Gender equality among candidates
Some countries use financial measures in order to encourage and increase gender equality among candidates and within political parties in general. This can include earmarking public funding to women's wings or for gender-related activities, or to reduce the nomination deposit required of women candidates.
Government contracts
Private companies that are providing goods, works or services to the government are potentially susceptible to corruption, and conflict of interests when donating to political parties.
Indirect Public Funding [including media]
Government provision of resources with a monetary value to political parties or candidates for the election campaign or for regular party financing, such as transport, venues, free or subsidized media access to public or private TV, radio, newspaper or other media.
In-kind contributions
Non-financial donations provided in the form of goods and services, such as use of venues for events free of charge, using vehicles or non-monetary gifts.
Itemized income
Parties are in some countries not only required to disclose their general income as a total amount but also in more detail, listing the amounts received from specific sources allowing more insight into their funding.
Itemized spending
Parties are in some countries not only required to disclose their general spending but also in more detail, listing the amounts spent on specific posts allowing for more insight into their activities.
Loophole
An ambiguity in the legal framework used to avoid or getting around laws and to exploit the system.
Monitoring
The systematic and objective observation and documentation of financial activity, i.e. the supervision of donations to and expenditure of parties, in order to identify irregularities in financial flows.
Partial government ownership
If a business is partially owned by the government, and were to donate to a political party, that would entail a clear conflict of interest and would be a growing ground for potential corruption.
Political finance
The concept encompasses all financial flows to and from political parties and candidates. It includes formal and informal income and expenditure, as well as financial and in-kind contributions. These transactions are not limited to a certain time period.
Political finance oversight
Theprocess of ensuring that political parties and candidates conduct themselves in line with the provisions of the legal framework. This may, for example, include receiving reports and investigating breaches, administering the provision of public funding, applying sanctions or hearing appeals.
Political party expenditures
The overall spending by political parties on political party activities and election campaigns.
Private donations
Financial contributions from individuals funding the activities of the political party, the candidate and the electoral campaign.
Public funding
A system where monetary assistance is provided by the government to qualified political parties or candidates for their campaigns or regular party activities.
Public tender/public procurement
Government procurement of goods, works and services constitute one of the most corruption sensitive areas of government. A large percentage of state funds are put into public procurement and therefore opens up opportunities for personal enrichment and constitute an area wherein business interests may offer bribes to gain advantages over their competitors.
Regular party funding
Non-campaign related finances, including donations and expenditure, of political parties, organizations and associations spent on an annual basis to maintain routine party operations.
Sanctions
Penalties in cases of financial misconduct of a party subject to the regulation. Actions such as irregularities in financial reporting, non-compliance with financial reporting regulation, improper use of public funds may result in either criminal or administrative sanctions including the loss of funds for the party, administrative fines or deregistration.
Spending limits
A maximum amount that a political party or a candidate can spend during the electoral campaign period or during a defined period of time; for example per constituency or per voter. The limit on expenditures sometimes also covers third party expenditures which refer to expenditure incurred on behalf of a political party or candidate by a different entity.
State resources
Resources and powers belonging to the public sector including personnel, financial, material, venues, vehicles, materials and other resources.
Third-party spending
In many elections, not only political parties and candidates spend money trying to get elected – other actors (third parties) may produce and run tv-commercials, put up billboards and in various ways attempt to support a given candidate or political party that aligns with their interests.
Vote buying
A form of political swindling that is intended to increase the number of votes a particular candidate or political party receives in an election by providing money or other benefits to constituents in exchange for their vote.

Developing the questions

Following a review of the previous International IDEA database on political finance, an expert group provided advice on the development of a new set of questions and gave guidance on the project’s direction. The questions added in the 2018 update were thus meant to outline a wider integrity-enhanced approach to addressing corruption within a given country, region and continent, but have since been dismantled due to complications in data-collection.

As of 2020, the database now includes in total 20 additional questions to the original 43 research questions. This provides a more holistic overview of the role of money in politics. To further ensure its relevance, we sought internal and external input to the process, including from an expert-level meeting with relevant actors in the field held at International IDEA. This is was further supplemented with continuous internal monitoring of changes within the field.

Countries included

To capture a wide range of political finance regulations in the database, we decided to only exclude countries that fell into one or more of the below categories:

  • Political parties are de jure not allowed to exist (legally banned)
  • No elections have been held during the last 30 years

This left us with 180 countries. Despite the quantity, and in some cases the complexity of questions, the response rate was high with substantive answers from all countries.

Answering the questions

Over 60 researchers from different institutions around the world were provided with coding instructions and asked to answer each of the 63 questions. A comprehensive collection of more than 1,000 laws, reports and other documents was collected. Their dedication has been indispensable for the re-launch of the database, for which International IDEA is very grateful. Please look at the Acknowledgement section for a more detailed presentation of all parties involved.

Verifying the answers

A large group of experts assisted by verifying the recorded answers and suggesting changes or additions wherever possible. While not all the country data was verified in this manner, this process significantly increased the reliability of the data. We hope that users of the database will also assist us by leaving feedback regarding any incorrect or missing information (see further below). We cannot guarantee that the 11,000+ answers are entirely error-free. We apologize for any inaccuracies.

Sources

Provisions relating to the financing of political parties are sometimes found in laws other than electoral or political party legislation. This can make it difficult to find all of the legal provisions regulating political finance. Some may be found in tax laws, special laws governing the operation of political parties, or laws relating to the media, private companies, trade unions or other bodies. Furthermore, provisions may be found in decrees, subsidiary legislation or regulations.

We asked researchers primarily to use legislation from each country. If relevant legislation could not be found, written sources such as election reports or political analyses were sought. For some regions, organizations focusing on campaign finance have provided much relevant information for a number of countries, such as the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA). Experts from various countries such as electoral management body (EMB) officials, academics or independent observers also assisted researchers in finding relevant information. The sources used in the database are listed under relevant questions.

Interpreting the absence of information

One problem with collecting and coding data of this kind is that if a certain provision does not exist in a country, it may be difficult to find other relevant information. For example, if a country does not use public funding of political parties, it is very unlikely that this is stated in legislation (it will be the result of an absence of rules regarding such funding). Deciding to automatically exclude cases where explicit information could not be found would have created a bias in the answers, as most countries where such provisions do not exist would be coded as "no information", and only countries where such provisions exist would be coded at all. There is, in other words, an asymmetry in how many provisions are included in legislation—if they exist there will be a direct reference whereas if they do not exist no mention of the issue will be included in the law.

In such cases, the researchers were instructed to seek other sources that could provide information (such as election observation reports, analyses of the political party situation in a country or input from an expert). In cases where confirmation of the absence of a provision could not be found from other sources, a judgement was made regarding the likelihood that the issue could be governed in regulatory documents not accessible to the researcher. Where the researcher had access to the relevant electoral and political party legislation and did not find any references to other legislation or similar documents that may be pertinent, they were instructed to answer "no" to questions regarding provisions not mentioned in any of these sources. For some questions where it is likely that provisions may exist in other legislation than that related to elections or political parties, these cases are coded as "no data". We believe that this is the best approach to dealing with the issue of non-regulation.

How to interpret the answers in the database

In a database covering over 180 countries with more than 11,000 individual answers, it is impossible to capture all the nuances that may exist in the regulations in a given country. For example, there may be different rules for different types of candidates, or about political parties in different regions of the same country (the focus of the answers is on national level regulations).

The questions have, in most cases been worded as "Is there a ban on..." or "Are there provisions for...". These questions have been answered "yes" if there are any cases of bans or provisions, even if these are only limited in scope. For example, if there is a ban on corporate donations to Presidential but not to Parliamentary candidates, the question has been answered "yes", with details provided under "comments" (click on any answer to see these). The quotes provided for the answers will, in many cases provide additional information about the regulatory situation in each country.

Keeping the database up to date

With such a mass of data, a major challenge becomes how to keep track of legislative and other changes that will necessitate differences in how questions have been answered. International IDEA intends to conduct regular updates of the database, but in the meantime, we welcome any suggestions for updates or corrections, or to add missing data. For each answer in the database, there is an opportunity for users to make such suggestions, and International IDEA will consider each carefully.

 

Bans and limits on private income

This section (questions 1-29) covers regulations that restrict who is allowed to contribute to political parties or candidates and the amount that a donor can contribute. These regulations are designed to prevent undesirable actors from unduly influencing the political sphere.

Questions 1-13 cover bans on donations from certain sources including foreign donors, corporate donors, trade unions, companies with partial government ownership or government contracts, and anonymous sources.

Questions 14–15 cover bans on abuse of state resources.

Questions 16-24 cover caps on actual donations and in-kind donations to political parties and candidates, in-kind donations.

Questions 25-29 cover restrictions on political parties and candidates in relation to their commercial activities, taking loans and participating in public procurement processes.

Public funding

This section (questions 30-39) covers the provision of direct and indirect public funding to political parties and candidates. Advocates of public funding argue such measures can counteract the negative influence of private money in politics, help to strengthen the capacity of political parties and level the electoral playing field.

Questions 30–33 cover whether direct public funding exists, and if so what the eligibility and allocation criteria are and whether there are provisions for how such funds should be used.

Questions 34–37 cover the provision of free or subsidized media access to political parties and candidates, and if any other forms of public funding are provided.

Questions 38–39 ask if financial incentives are provided to promote gender equality among candidates.

Regulations on spending

This section (questions 40-48)covers rules on the amount and type of expenditure political parties and candidates can make. These rules seek to curb undesirable spending, to decrease the advantage of those with access to significant resources, and to reduce overall spending on election campaigns.

Questions 40-45 address bans on vote buying and spending limits by political parties, candidates and third parties.

Questions 46-48 cover spending limits on media advertisements.

Reporting, oversight and sanctions

This section (questions 49-63) addresses the requirements for financial reporting, oversight of political finance regulations and available sanctions. Without effective disclosure and monitoring, transparency cannot be achieved, and it is unlikely that political actors will respect rules such as contribution bans and spending limits.

Questions 49-56 cover issues of financial reporting by political parties and candidates, as well as whether such reports must include itemized information, disclose individual donors’ data and if they are required to be made public.

Questions 57-63 cover the mandates on institution(s) that receive financial reports, investigate potential breaches or other responsibilities in relation to political finance oversight and asset disclosure.

Questions 14 and 15 (about state resources) seem the same to me. Can you explain the difference?

Answer: Question 14 concerns state resources being used for- or against- a political party or candidate. Question 15 concerns laws on state resources (excluding regulated public funding) that are used to fund political parties or candidates; excluding analysis of the specific intended use of state resources that fund political parties or candidates. Question 14 covers the actual intent of a law that provides for the funding political parties or candidates with state resources.

 

If public funds are given to parliamentary caucuses or MPs’ salaries, have you interpreted that as direct or indirect public funding?

Answer: Most definitions of direct public funding only include extra-parliamentary support. i.e. funds exclusively to support parliamentary party groups (travel allowances etc.) and not MPs’ salaries. If this is the only available form of state public funding, we have answered "no" to Q30 about direct public funding. For more information pertaining to other types of indirect funding, please go to question 37.

 

What if I find information that a regulation is not implemented?

Answer: This is a database focusing on the formal regulations in different countries, not on actual implementation. This means that, when answering the questions, the formal rules should be followed. If you find information that contribution limits are routinely ignored or that public funding has been distributed on an ad hoc basis, the answer should still be based on the formal regulation.

 

Where can I leave information that is not question-specific about the Political Finance Database?

Answer: Simply email us if anything like this arises: politicalfinancedb@idea.int .

 

International IDEA would like to thank all those who have participated in the Political Finance Database project for their hard work making the database the world’s primary resource on political party and candidate finance regulations, providing expertise and pulling together all the resources making it comprehensive.

For the 2020 Political Finance Database update, the co-ordination and finalisation of the database was led by Yukihiko Hamada, Senior Programme Officer, International IDEA. With valuable inputs from IDEA’s regional programmes, the data cleaning, follow-up research, and administrative tasks were carried out by members of IDEA’s Political Participation and Representation team; Maria Santillana, Summer Isaacson, Silvia López Prieto and Jenefrieda Isberg.

Special thanks go to the following institutions and experts who conducted thorough data collection and review for the database:

 

Melbourne University, Australia

Alan Wall

Joo-Cheong Tham

Lesley Clark

 

Seoul National University, Republic of Korea

Erik Mobrand

 

University of Nottingham and the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

Bat-Orgil Altankhuyag

Fernando Casal Bertoa

Ieva Bride

Ines Stasa

Khurram Siddiqui

Rokas Stabingis

Salome Mukhuradze

Teodora Yovcheva

 

University of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic

Vit Simral

 

Independent Researchers and Reviewers

Adam Sawicki

Ahmed Farag

Barbara Jouan Stonestreet

Ernesto Sánchez Álvarez-Tostado

Francesca Barco

Karina Kalpschtrej

Mical Rodríguez Laconich

Sónia Pereíra de Figueiredo

Prof. Ömer Gençkaya

 

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