Among the priorities assumed right after Presidential elections, MPs may only boast with finalizing one: the political parties’ financing law. The law was sent back though to the Parliament by President Klaus Iohannis, who contested many of its stipulations.
The real stake of the political parties’ financing law might be the refunding by the state of the electoral expenses included in the campaign and the possibility of loans from banks. In figures, it may mean as much as EUR 400 millions paid by the state to parties for all kinds of elections.
Inspired by French laws, the new draft stipulates that all parties and independent candidates that exceed the level of 3 per cent in a national or local election may demand a refund of their campaign expenses from the state budget. The new law also offers parties the possibility to request loans from banks; yet the sum should nor be higher than 0.025 per cent of the state budget income for the respective year. Compared to this year’s earnings, it would represent approximately RON 25 million. Actually, the state thus warrants, indirectly, the loans granted to parties.
Yet, the draft law was sent back to the Parliament because there are still possibilities that the parties would receive money from dubious sources. Donations may easily be camouflaged as loans from physical and juridical parties and may depend on businessmen in the future, as well.
Refunding of expenses means a breath of fresh air for candidates, too. A candidate for the Parliamentary elections that earns over 3 per cent of the votes in his area might be funded the equivalent of gross 60 minimal wages, which means approximately RON 60,000. In the case of a Presidential candidate, the sum they may be refunded by the state is approximately RON 200 million and for the European Parliament elections, over 150 million. Almost RON 600 million might be granted to cover some of the expenses made by candidates to the 40,000 positions of local advisers in the country. A slightly more consistent sum might be paid to candidates for the position of county advisers. The total expenses of the state budget for all electoral cycles would totalize approximately RON 2 billion, the equivalent of over EUR 400 million.
When it comes to expense control, the state must take into account data supplied by parties or candidates. In the case of suspicions, the state may notify legal pursuit institutions.
In France, the National Committee for Campaign Accounts and Political Financing has extended attributions, including the prohibition of the right to be elected for a candidate that severely violates the law. At the latest Presidential elections, UMF, Nicolas Sarkozy’s party, exceeded by 2 per cent the highest allowed level for legal campaign expenses and thus lost a refund of EUR 11 million, which means almost half of campaign costs, digi24.ro announced.
President Iohannis demands the Parliament the reexamination of the Political Parties and Electoral Campaigns Financing Law
President Klaus Iohannis sent to the Parliament, on Friday, a request to reexamine the Law for the change of the norm regarding the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns considering that the law sent for approval fails to respect Parliament procedures.
In a press release issued after the reexamination of the law was announced, it is shown that the Romanian President’s decision to demand the Parliament to reexamine this law is based “on a series of principle-based facts and legal ones” under the circumstances that “laws regulating the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns are essential in reforming political institutions, reforms all parties were engaged in, reforms that are awaited by the entire Romanian society.”
“The purpose of bringing more transparency and integrity in the financing of parties and electoral campaigns, established during discussions with the President of Romania, cannot be achieved in the absence of real discussions and clear, rigorous stipulations, that should not leave room for suspicions, interpretations or lead to contrary effects to the ones expected”, the Head of the State pointed out.
The President mentioned that, in the version sent for approval, the law did not benefit of debate in both Chambers of the Parliament, which affects inclusively the constitutional principle of bicameralism. “By his reexamination request, the President of Romania demands the clarification of norms concerning the loans granted to parties by physical and juridical parties, donations, the control of financing, as well as the clarification of paragraphs that might violate the principle of political pluralism”, the press release issued by the Presidential Administration, destined to explain the request of reexamination, points out.
The Presidential Administration announced on Friday that the law of modification of the normative act regarding the financing of the activities of parties and electoral campaigns, sent for approval, causes issues due to possible violations of the Parliament procedure of adopting laws, as well as due to lack of transparency in Parliament discussions, as an intrinsic principle of the lawmaking function of the Parliament.
Moreover, the Parliament must reexamine some of the stipulations of the law to check concordance to the constitutional principles and norms regarding political parties and based on the clarity of legal norms, the request of the President shows.
PNL’s Voicu: Until May 15, the law will be sent to the President for approval
The president of the Joint Committee for Elaborating Electoral Laws. Mihai Voicu, had declared for Mediafax that PNL will request the approval of the reexamination request for the Party Financing Law and that, until May 15, the law will be sent back to the Head of the State for approval.
“We were notified of President Klaus Iohannis’ request of reexamination and understood that he does not question the fundamental principles of the law, the ones that require financing from the state budget. We are talking about demands that imply an increase in the transparency and control in using public funds. We cannot but agree on these things and, therefore, PNL, in the Electoral Code Committee, will support the approval of the request of reexamination”, Mihai Voicu mentioned.
The President of the Committee also mentioned that, although PNL was not majority in the Committee, the Liberals are convinced of the fact that all the other parties that, contributed, by consenting, to the elaboration of the law will agree to make the changes demanded by President Iohannis in the reexamination demand sent to Parliament.
“As far as Parliament procedure is concerned, there will be no problem that, until May 15, the law would be voted again and sent for approval, so that it can be applied at the future local elections”, Mihai Voicu declared.
He also mentioned that, given the fact that the Parliament procedure requires both Chambers, the additional demand by the Head of the State, requiring bicameralism, appearing in the reexamination request, would also be solved.
The PNL Vice-President mentioned in a press release that the necessity of corrections in the party financing law, in the direction of increased transparency and of stricter control of public funds, is a priority.
“PNL demands the fast reanalyzing of this law under the circumstances that the next meeting of the Committee was scheduled on April 15”, the Head of the Electoral Code Committee also showed.
Mihai Voicu went on to point out that Liberals revealed that the party and electoral campaigns financing law was one of the laws political groups announced to adopt during this Parliament season, at the Cotroceni Palace meetings in January.
UNPR’s Nicolicea: The changes of the Party Financing Law will be made in due time
On his turn, UNPR Deputy Eugen Nicolicea declared last Friday for Mediafax that the changes to the party financing law will be made in due time, after the law will be reexamined. He also mentioned that the remark made by President Iohannis regarding the violation of bicameralism concerns the Constitutional Court, not the Parliament.
“The President acts in the limit of constitutional competences he holds, and he has a right to request reexamination. The deadlines will be as short as possible in the Chamber and in the Senate, but we cannot impose the President how to act, he has some limits in notifying the Constitutional Court and manages them as he sees hit”, Nicolicea declared about the demand of reexamination made by the Head of the State regarding the law for the change of the normative act regulating the financing of party activity and electoral campaigns.
Eugen Nicolicea mentioned that the law should not be adopted until at least May, pointing out that the basic rules of elections, respectively the organization, the voting system, the way mandates are shared, all of these must be adopted 12 months before the elections.
According to the UNPR Deputy, there is an exception, granted by the Venice Committee, regarding the situations are made by organic laws.
“The political parties financing law is an organic law so its modification must be made based on an organic law. It will be adopted in due time”, Nicolicea also mentioned.
Nicolicea also made an observation regarding the notification by President Iohannis, in his reexamination request, of the fact that, in the version sent for approval, the law did not benefit of discussion in both Chambers of the Parliament which affects inclusively the constitutional principle of bicameralism.
“As for the remark made by the Head of the State regarding the violation of bicameralism, in the case of changes adopted to the parties and electoral campaigns financing law, it is a matter of unconstitutionality, not of reexamination of the law by the Parliament. If the Head of the State sees a violation of the Constitution, he is supposed to send the law to Court, not to reexamination. You do not tell the Parliament: This is unconstitutional, so you do it!, because the Parliament cannot be granted unconstitutional assignments, regardless of who makes the demand. The only institution to declare that something is unconstitutional is the Constitutional Court, because, otherwise, it would mean that the President interfered in CC attributions and so does the Parliament”, Nicolicea explained.