Campaign Spending Monitoring Project Launched

A screenshot of the press conference announcement launching IWatch's campaign spending monitoring project, shared on social media, Monday, September 23, 2019.

The anti-corruption civil society group IWatch announced on Monday the details of a monitoring mission looking specifically at campaign spending in the legislative elections scheduled for October 6.

The group announced that they had already launched the project on September 14 and would continue their observation mission until October 5th, the day before the elections when the High Independent Election Body (ISIE) imposes a day of media silence on campaigning and campaign reporting.

IWatch did not specify exactly how they would monitor spending or how it might help to provide details on where the financing for such spending might come from. However, in a report from a similar observation mission they conducted during the 2018 municipal elections, IWatch notes in the methodology section that their monitoring included “precise, specific field observation data collected through campaign activities and meetings with political parties” and they put together price estimates from independent suppliers for services, presumably services that campaigns would likely be using during the campaign.

It is unclear what services exactly IWatch had gathered data on and whether they had also gathered price quotes on campaign materials used. They indicated that they would share their information with the Central Bank, prosecutors and customs officials to help authorities verify that campaign spending meets regulations.

“The existence of observers on the ground at these events reduces election violations or makes political parties scared of committing violations”” Yosra al-Mkaddem, a projects manager at IWatch said at the press conference held at the Africa Hotel, who gave details on how observers would be coordinating in the field while reporting to coordinators.

According to Mkaddem, the observawtion project aims “to enhance the transparency and integrity of the…campaigns.”

IWatch has previously done similar observation work of campaign spending monitoring in the 2014 elections and in the 2018 municipal elections.

According to IWatch spokespeople, they so far have 27 people working on the observation teams with an addition eight coordinators including supervisors, a statistical analyst and a legal analyst. IWatch expects the number of people working on this project will increase by another 72 by the end of the campaign.

The project is only monitoring campaign spending activities in high population areas, including the election districts of Tunis 1, Tunis 2, Sousse, Sfax 1, Sfax 2, Kef, Gafsa, and Ben Guerdane. The IWatch team is only devoting observation team to monitor the political parties they say have spent big amounts in the past, including on festivals. The parties they are looking at include Ennahda, Tahya Tounes, 9alb Tounes, Nidaa Tounes, the Free Destourian Party, Badil Ettounsi, the Democratic Current, and the Aich Tounsi list.

IWatch President Achref Aouadi claimed at the press conference that IWatch is the only Tunisian watchdog group to monitor campaign spending and only the second one to do so in the entire Arab world after a similar project in Lebanon in 2009.

The previous 2018 municipal campaign spending report that IWatch published included thanks to the US government’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), USAID, the Canadian government, and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).