Political Finance in Post-Conflict Societies


By Horacio Boneo & Bob Dahl

This study of political finance in post-conflict society identifies lessons learned from international donor-funded efforts to support political processes in post-conflict environments in general and the funding of political parties and campaign finance in particular. The document consists of eight case studies that seek to improve our understanding not only of the political dynamics of post-conflict situations but also of how to rally international support for holding elections and supporting democratization under such circumstances. Thus, this study will draw upon these lessons to answer a fundamental question:

For purposes of advancing democracy and peace building—and discouraging violence, intimidation or the influence of political funding from undesirable sources—what are the fundamental steps or minimum requirements for creating a viable political finance system in post-conflict societies?

For the purpose of this study, a “political finance system” encompasses limitations on, support for and accountability of funding for political parties, candidates and other electoral participants. States and societies severely disrupted by conflicts to the point that domestic institutions have collapsed experience distinctive problems with regard to political finance regulation. These problems include funding from undesirable sources, electoral violence and unequal opportunities for participation, which can reduce electoral competition and lead to prolonged periods of one-party domination or a return to conflict.

Rapid political and social change in post-conflict situations generally demands a clear set of rules and control over political funds, with special attention to preventing systemic fraud and corruption, initiating the development of healthy political parties, and introducing openness and transparency. These are substantial challenges for any political regime, but they can be monumental in a post conflict environment.

During the last decade, international donors have engaged in programming in various aspects of creating political finance systems, including the actual planning, organizing and funding of elections and political parties. This paper specifically examines the experiences of Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, El Salvador, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Liberia and Mozambique. These and other countries, which have undergone armed conflict, illustrate the nature of the challenges to be faced in political finance programming in post-conflict societies, including:

·          Establishing effective legal and procedural frameworks;

·          Limiting political violence;

·          Preventing funding from undesirable sources and abuse of state resources;

·          Enacting enforcement mechanisms;

·          Addressing transparency through financial reporting and public disclosure; and

·          Balancing the competitive field by providing subsidies through trust funds and free broadcasting.

The post-conflict elections examined in this document should not be considered as a homogeneous group. Some of these countries just emerged from prolonged, violent, low-intensity internal conflict; from all-out civil war; or from direct military intervention on the part of the international community (although low-intensity conflict continued). In several cases, the post-conflict political process was based on peace agreements that included specific provisions for holding elections. In many cases, the first post-conflict elections took place very shortly after the cessation of widespread fighting. In others, successive elections were conducted in relatively non-violent environments.