JIS News

Campaign financing for political parties was the subject of discussion at a public forum organised jointly by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica and Frederick Ebert Stiftung, at the Port Antonio High School in Portland on July 3.
The forum was the first in a series planned across the country to solicit the views of Jamaicans on the issue of campaign financing, in the effort to develop a transparent and accountable system in that regard.
Matters discussed at the meeting included: financial contribution made to political parties by individuals or large corporations; financial contribution made to political parties by interest groups; the imposition of a limit on the amount of money a party can receive from any individual, special interest group or large business for its political campaign; and whether there should be regulations requiring that full information be made for donation made by individuals or private interests.
Welcoming persons in attendance, Orrette Fisher, Acting Director of Elections, emphasized that the issues of transparency and accountability in respect of campaign financing are critically important matters for candidates competing in elections. He noted that any system of campaign financing that is allowed to continue without being governed by rules and regulations could have a negative influence on the elections, adding that one of the greatest current concerns about the electoral system is the undue influence which money providers could have on the outcome of elections.
Mr. Fisher emphasised that money provided by the public purse could significantly reduce that influence, and that the development of a regulatory system must be based on the culture and the value system of the society.
The audience was also briefed on recommendations on campaign financing to be made to Parliament by the Campaign Finance Committee of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.
Making the presentation, Dorothy Pine-McLarty, Chairperson of the Committee, noted that Jamaica has a good electoral system, and pointed out that every effort would be made to protect it, with the establishment of a good campaign financing system.
She said that the recommendations being made to Parliament include: the compulsory registration of all political parties with the Electoral Commission; the compulsory registration of political candidates with their parties or independents; the provision of limited funding to political parties by government; the imposition of a $5 million ceiling on all constituency campaign expenditure; and the mandatory disclosure of assets by all candidates.
Mrs. Pine-McLarty stressed that the Electoral Commission is recommending that political parties not registered with the Commission, be prevented from contesting the elections, and that the Chairman of the Commission be conferred with the powers of a Resident Magistrate to enable him to enforce the law as it relates to campaign financing if any failure to comply occurs.
In her address, Judith Wedderburn, Director of Frederick Ebert Stiftung, said the organisation was committed to the principle of a strong democratic system and asserted that the political parties have a responsibility to promote the will of the people.
Frederick Ebert Stiftung is a private non-profit organisation in Germany, committed to the ideals of social democracy.

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