Campaign Finance Reform Takes Center Stage in Saint Lucia

Source:  TeleSUR
March 4 2016

st lucia labour party.jpg

Supporters of the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party at the first official candidate launch in Dennery, Saint Lucia on Feb. 28, 2016 | Photo: teleSUR

As a general election looms in Saint Lucia, many say it is time for political parties to declare their sources of funding.

Caribbean Chartered Accountant Frank Myers says it is time for party funding reform — the type of policies that would limit donations and make the names of donors public.

“We are a small country. Technically everybody has one vote and it is unlikely that any one person is going to give a significant amount of money to a political party and not want something back in return. That is the dangerous thing in all of this,” he said.

When the race begins for a new government, political parties must find enough cash to fund their campaigns. Those campaigns do not come cheap. They are often characterized by expansive billboards and posters, huge rallies and expensive ads — racking up astounding bills.

kenny anthony davis.jpgAnthony – mixed feelings

Saint Lucia’s prime minister, Kenny Anthony, says the issue is raised every election cycle and this one is no different. He says the jury remains out on this topic.

“I have mixed views and mixed feelings about it. I’m not so sure it’s as big an issue for small countries as it is for big countries. I’m not too sure about that. I know that there has been some reform in some other islands, for example in the case of Jamaica, but when you look at the reform it is very limited. Very very limited reform,” he said.

A number of voters have called for political parties to declare their financial sources publicly. Some say it should go a step further, with parties and politicians declaring their assets ahead of elections.

We should know

“As citizens of the state we should know where it is coming from, because we don’t know whether it is coming from the taxpayers money or whether it is from outside sources,” said Henry Thomas of Vieux Fort, in the south of Saint Lucia.

For Thomas Mathurin, it’s a case of “knowing beforehand, to avoid any future embarrassments or scandals.”

“Sometimes these fellows, when they come into power, you find out they’re being financed by other agencies that sometimes the country knows nothing about. So I think it should be lawful,” he said.

Advocates for reform say regulating campaign financing could go a long way to establishing accountability and ensuring that infusions of money into campaigns do not give businesses undue influence over the will of the people.

Elections are constitutionally due in Saint Lucia by 2017, but the ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party has ushered in the election campaign with the launch of its first candidate on February 28.

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