About the Database
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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.
As of the 2020 update, the number of research questions is now 58. 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, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: email@example.com .
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
Seoul National University, Republic of Korea
University of Nottingham and the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
Fernando Casal Bertoa
University of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic
Independent Researchers and Reviewers
Barbara Jouan Stonestreet
Ernesto Sánchez Álvarez-Tostado
Mical Rodríguez Laconich
Sónia Pereíra de Figueiredo
Prof. Ömer Gençkaya