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Elections, Political Parties and Candidates

last modified Sep 10, 2013 12:00 AM

Overview

Access to election-related information is widely considered to be essential to the integrity of electoral processes in the democratic world. A comprehensive survey of relevant laws and regulations, carried out in 2003 by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), found that, out of the 111 established and emerging democracies surveyed, sixty countries required political parties and/or their donors to disclose campaign contributions and other sources of income. These included, at the time, at least twenty-seven member states of the Council of Europe (not all members were included in the study). Fifty-three of the surveyed countries required disclosure of political party expenditure. With a few exceptions, the information disclosed by the parties, usually to a specialized government agency, can be freely accessed by the general public.[1] In some of these countries, the RTI law can be used to access this information; in other countries, election laws regulate these issues.

Disclosure of party finances, including campaign spending and contributions, serves the important goals of protecting the integrity of the electoral process and enabling voters to make informed choices on election day on the basis of the broadest possible information, including as to the parties and candidates’ sources of funding. To further these goals and promote good practices in this area, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted in 2003 a Recommendation on Common Rules Against Corruption in the Funding of Political Parties and Electoral Campaigns. According to the Recommendation, political parties should be required regularly to make public their accounts, or a summary thereof, including records of received donations and all campaign expenditures (Articles 10-13).

The European Union (EU) has adopted similar disclosure conditionality for EU political parties seeking EU funding. Under Article 6 of EU Regulation 2004/2003, an applicant party must, among other conditions:

a.       publish its revenue and expenditure and a statement of its assets and liabilities annually;

b.      declare its sources of funding by providing a list specifying the donors and the donations received from each donor, with the exception of donations not exceeding EUR 500….

Courts in a number of countries have granted citizens access to information about political party finances and other election-related information, sometimes in the absence of any explicit statutory scheme. Courts have ordered disclosure of information about campaign contributions (Canada); bank account information of a political party, where there was unequivocal evidence that it had misused private funds (Costa Rica); the background of candidates, including their assets and any pending criminal investigations (India); the management and use of any public funds (Indonesia); the salary and other income of political party leaders (Mexico); and the terms of an agreement made by parties to form a coalition government (Israel). These cases are described at greater length below. We welcome receipt of copies of, or links to, the court judgments, or further information about the facts of these cases.

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[1] IDEA, Funding of Political Parties and Election Campaigns (2003), pp. 182, 189-191.

Archive

You will find detailed country information that is not regularly updated in our Archive.

Relevant cases

 

Relevant Cases

Title:Country:Year:Court / Arbiter:
Common Cause v. Union of India India 1996 Supreme The scope of the term "conduct of election" in Article 324 of the Constitution of India is broad enough to give the Election Commission authority to issue directions for political parties to submit details of all election-related expenditures.
In re Constitutionality of various acts of primary and secondary legislation related to archives and classification regime Hungary 1994 Constitutional Freedom of scientific life, the right to protection of personal data and the right to freedom of information need to be balanced against one another. The state is obliged to guarantee access to documents of communist ruling parties for scientific research. Freedom of information and scientific life cannot be regulated by secondary legislation. Only people holding public power can classify information as a state or official secret.
Geraguyn Khorhurd Patgamavorakan Akumb v. Armenia Armenia 2009 International / ECHR The Court rejected as inadmissible for failure to exhaust domestic remedies a case seeking access to information where the applicant's lack of information on an information request prevented domestic courts from examining the merits.
Institute for Democracy in South Africa v. African National Congress, et al. South Africa 2005 Appellate Access to information may only be pursued through the Promotion of Access to Information Act (not through Section 32 of the Constitution). Political parties are considered “private bodies” when access to information about private donations is sought.
Phinjo Gombu v. Tom Mitchinson, Assistant Commissioner et al. Canada 2002 Appellate Refusal to disclose information about campaign contributions, including names, addresses and phone numbers of contributors, in electronic format was unreasonable given the importance of furthering the democratic process through public scrutiny and the minimal intrusion on privacy.
President of the Republic of South Africa. v. M & G Media Ltd. South Africa 2010 Supreme Under the South African Bill of Rights and the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000, conclusory affidavits provided by the President to justify the secrecy of a report of the 2002 Zimbabwe elections prepared by two judges for President Mbeki were insufficient to justify non-disclosure.
Shalit v. Peres Israel 1990 Supreme Coalition agreements between parliamentary factions, concluded in anticipation of the formation of a government and dealing with the functions of the legislative or executive authorities ought to be published.
Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Another v. Union of India and Another India 2003 Supreme Voters have a fundamental right to know relevant qualifications of candidates for office, including information about their income and assets. Accordingly, a section of a law stating that candidates could not be compelled to disclose any information about themselves other than their criminal records was unconstitutional.
Union of India (UOI) v. Respondent: Association for Democratic Reforms and Another; with People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Another v. Union of India (UOI) and Another India 2002 Supreme Citizens have a right to know about public functionaries and candidates for office, including their assets and criminal and educational backgrounds, which right is derived from the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression.
Ward of Songpa, Seoul Metropolitan City v. Election Commission of Seoul Metropolitan City South Korea 2005 First instance Local government officials are not entitled to request public information under the access to information law in their official capacity. As such, they do not qualify as "people" entitled to access to government information under the law.
Zárate v. Federal Electoral Institute Mexico 2004 Supreme The right to receive information about organization, work, financial resources and statutes of political parties is an element of the right to information, which, in turn, is a basis for the free exercise of other fundamental rights. Authorities have to guarantee access to financial information of political parties, including monthly salaries and other benefits of the party leaders.