In some democracies, amount a party or candidate can spend towards election campaign is not regulated or poorly regulated. In which countries election spending or contributions are strictly regulated and are there any observable improvements/differences?
Some general information can be found on Wikipedia and it is clear that elections financing affects the elections:
Correct handling of political finance impacts a country's ability to effectively maintain free and fair elections, effective governance, democratic government and regulation of corruption.
Also, a study made by Magnus Öhman and Hani Zainulbhai came to these conclusions:
- Money is necessary for democratic politics, and political parties must have access to funds to play their part in the political process. Regulation must not curb healthy competition.
- Money is never an unproblematic part of the political system, and regulation is desirable.
- The context and political culture must be taken into account when devising strategies for controlling money in politics.
- Effective regulation and disclosure can help to control adverse effects of the role of money in politics, but only if well conceived and implemented.
- Effective oversight depends on activities in interaction by several stakeholders (such as regulators, civil society and the media) and based on transparency.
No explicit mention of amount limitations, but it can be deducted from the emphasized text.
According to the same Wikipedia article, electoral campaigns are partially sported by the State:
In some electoral systems, candidates who win an election or secure a minimum number of ballots are allowed to apply for a rebate to the government. The candidate submits an audited report of the campaign expenses and the government issues a rebate to the candidate, subject to some caps such as the number of votes cast for the candidate or a blanket cap
Of course, any rebate is regulated.
Actual example: Romania has quite strict laws when it comes to political parties and electoral campaign financing, as specified here.
- strict recording of all donations
[...] ways of recording and format, bookkeeping and publicity of donations, contributions, loans and revenues and expenditures of political parties according to the law, all sources of income of political parties are registered and highlighted in the accounting records of political parties.
- no cash for large amounts
money donations whose value exceed 10 gross wages will be made only through bank accounts, and this limit is an annual one
and many other regulations on how the money can be spent
Also, according to this article:
the candidates can no longer use propaganda materials such as branded pens, hats, mugs, and buckets, which they used to hand over to potential voters, especially in the rural areas.
For last general elections (December 2016), a candidate for a seat in the Parliament could spent a maximum of 24000 Euros (source, Romanian)
However, some speculate that many campaign related activities were indirectly financed.
Noticeable effects in Romania
These are personally observed effects. I could not find any reliable source to argue about this subject, but I have followed the whole campaign and the outcome.
- much less electoral banners, as they are quite expensive
- less TV electoral shows
- next to nothing electoral concerts
- much more online publicity though social media accounts, ads etc. which are more cost effective than traditional
- a slight decrease in vote turnout (some 2% difference from 2012 general elections)
- no actual change in the outcome (the same parties in power)
So, shortly put: less noise, quite the same results. While regulating the financing of the election has some benefits, I think there are many other factors that influence the outcome of the elections.