Research into the costs of seeking political office in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria Senegal, Sierra Leone, and The Gambia has shown not only that the amounts required to contest are increasing every year, but that in most places campaign costs can amount to more than a legislator’s annual salary. For those elected, expectations about how they should continue to support constituents and constituency development, as well as social events, means that the costs of being in office can also be extremely high.
Drivers of these increasing costs include: the party primary or candidate selection process; activities in the formal campaign period, such as rallies, door-to-door campaigns, and donations to key community actors; and legal challenges to election results. Candidates themselves bear the largest burden for raising the funds to run, with political party financial support limited. In fact, in some cases candidates are helping to fund parties by purchasing nomination forms.
The high and growing costs of politics excludes ordinary citizens from the political space. Young and female aspirants are particularly constrained, especially where there are no quotas for women representatives. Another impact of these costs is the increased incentive for members of the legislature to engage in corrupt practices to continue to meet constituent demands when in office, and to recoup the sizeable investments made to get elected.
To reduce the costs outlaid on seeking office, the reports point to combined efforts that link new, stronger and more enforceable campaign finance regulations with greater civic education for voters about the role that elected representatives should play.