Here’s what you need to know about campaign financing in Kenya’s most expensive election

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Kenya’s August 8 elections will be the most expensive presidential race in its democratic history. International donors, special interest groups and investments in modern technology are the main drivers of the campaign strategies of Jubilee party and the NASA alliance.

The two dominant parties have enlisted billionaires and members of the business community to serve as resource mobilisers to raise millions of dollars needed to run the campaign.

Analysts have predicted that the competitive nature of this election will see both campaigns spend hundreds of million of dollars on the stump.

A source close to the Jubilee party revealed that, “if a presidential candidate wants to run a successful campaign, he must be willing to spend $50 million which translates to Ksh5 billion. He stated that media and publicity gets a huge chunk of the budget.

Other major campaign spends are merchandise, advertising, transport, research, analytics, communications, campaign staffers and events.

It was recently revealed that the Jubilee party and NASA each purchased 25 helicopters to help with their campaigns. For those looking to hire, it costs $2500 per hour inclusive of aviation fuel and pilot costs.

With the devolution of powers and the extremely lucrative resources of Counties, the governorship seat has become a competitive race among political leaders. This has led candidates in the gubernatorial race to spend millions of dollars in campaigning. It was reported that aspirants spent $3 million dollars (Ksh300 million) in the just concluded primaries, the budget is expected to increase now that campaign season has officially began.

Independent rush

Politicians who felt cheated out of the primaries by their parties decided to run as independents as allowed by law. These candidates, with no structural support from a political party have had to raise funds and seek support from special interest groups to fund expensive campaigns.

To run as members of parliament, some independent candidates spent $15,000 (Ksh15 million) during the party primaries to support their campaigns.

However, this figure could change depending on size of the constituency and its population. The emergence of independent candidates is also said to have inflated the cost of campaigns, because a candidate who won the primaries will end up facing the same opponents in the general election.

Campaign sources

Sources of funding and budgets are closely guarded secrets. Speculations from the media and analysts are rife with conjectures. Despite no evidence to back up their claims, the media, allegedly driven by President Kenyatta’s rhetoric have accused several international organizations of funding the opposition campaign.

US-based Vanguard Africa, had to release an official statement discrediting allegations that they were providing financial and technical support to Raila Odinga and NASA after several disparaging claims in the media.

To save face, politicians have reiterated that they raise funds from legitimate membership fees and fundraising from supporters across Kenya.

Sources close to the leading political parties say the recent decision by the parliament to suspend parts of the Electoral law provided a lacuna in the law, which will see campaign funds hit a record high.

IEBC’s losing battle

The IEBC capped the budget for the presidential campaign, but politicians on both sides of the dominant parties opposed the regulations, saying they were not backed by law.

The IEBC’s effort to regulate campaign financing was upended when MPs ganged up to repeal the Elections Campaign Financing Act.

Regulations in the act put the cap that political parties could receive up to Ksh15.03 billion ($148.2 million) in contributions with a single source limited to Ksh3 billion ($29.5 million). Presidential candidates were limited to spending Ksh5.25 billion ($51.8 million) while those contesting for the governor/senator/women’s representative seats allowed to spend up to Ksh433 million ($4.3 million).

Pundits have expressed concern over the possible looting of public funds for campaigns by incumbent candidates, due to the limitless campaign spend and lack of accountability from politicians as election countdown begins.

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