CCR admits Opposition’s challenge: Amendments to law on the financing of parties and campaigns, unconstitutional. What substantial changes would have occurred

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On Thursday, the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) admitted, with unanimous votes, the constitutionality challenge filed by the National Liberal Party (PNL), the Save Romania Union (USR) and the Popular Movement Party (PMP), ruling that the changes brought to the law on the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns are unconstitutional.

Thus, the CCR debated, as part of the pre-promulgation constitutionality control, the constitutionality challenge against the law amending and supplementing law no.334/2006 on the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns, challenge filed by 50 MPs belonging to the parliamentary groups of PNL, USR and PMP, a CCR communique shows.

Following the deliberations, the Court admitted, with unanimous votes, the constitutionality challenge and noted that the law amending and supplementing law no.334/2006 on the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns is unconstitutional.

The CCR noted that the challenged law conflicts with the principle of bicameralism, considering the fact that by ignoring the initial purpose and the regulatory objective of the bill, the Lower House – in its capacity as the House with the final say on the issue – adopted a significant number of amendments liable to radically transform, through their quantitative and qualitative contribution, the philosophy that formed the basis of the tabling of the bill, thus excluding the Senate from the process of legislation, which must represent the work of the whole Parliament.

Likewise, the Court noted that some of the texts included in the challenged law fail to meet the requirements of the principle of legality, exigencies concerning the conditions of clarity, precision, and predictability of the law.

Last month, the Lower House adopted the bill amending the law on the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns, in the sense that the sums obtained in violation of legal provisions could no longer be confiscated and turned into state budget revenues.

The bill adopted by the Lower House modified the law on campaign contributions and the financing of political parties, abrogating the articles according to which sums of money received in violation of legal provisions are to be confiscated and turned into budget revenues. The amendments operating this change were drafted by PSD MPs.

Another amendment brought stipulated that “in the cases mentioned under Article 51, Paragraph (1), point 1, 5-8, 20, 29 and 30, and under Paragraph (2), point 21, the objects of confiscation are only the sums of money that surpass the maximum limits stipulated by law for donations, loans, campaign contributions and expenses, except for unused sums of money.”

Also at PSD’s proposal, the budget funds allocated yearly for political parties should have totalled at least 0.01 percent of GDP and at most 0.04 percent of GDP, while in the case of political parties that promote women on eligible places on electoral lists the budget funds allocated would have been hiked proportionally to the number of seats won by female candidates. The law subjected to amendment was stipulating that the funds allocated yearly for political parties cannot surpass 0.04 percent of budget revenues.

Another article adopted stipulated that a political party’s failure to use – during the period stipulated by law – the sums of money received as donations for the purchase of buildings used as party headquarters represents a contravention (if committed in circumstances that do not make it a criminal offence) and can result in fines ranging from RON 100,000 to RON 200,000.

Lower House members had decided that each year, by April 30, political parties would have had the obligation to lodge with the Standing Electoral Authority “a synthesis report” on the revenues and expenditures registered during the previous year, not “a detailed report” as previously stipulated by the amended law.

In the form adopted by Parliament, the Standing Electoral Authority (AEP) would have had the mission to ensure the organising and holding of elections and referendums, as well as to guide political parties, political alliances, electoral alliances, as well as independent candidates in observing the laws and international standards in this field. “In exercising its oversight role, the activity of prevention and guidance prevails over its censuring role,” read an amendment drafted by PSD Lower House member Mircea Draghici.