Several NGOs, members of the Politics Without Barriers Campaign, along with the Centre for Public Innovation and the Centre for the Study of Democracy, have asked Lower Chamber lawmakers to reject the amendments brought by PSD’s Florin Iordache to the law on the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns, amendments adopted by the Lower Chamber’s Judiciary Committee. The amendments abrogate the sanction of having the sums illegally obtained and used by political parties confiscated.
“At the initiative of Lower Chamber Deputy Speaker Florin Iordache, the committee admitted a series of amendments that abrogate the sanction of confiscating the sums illegally obtained and used by political parties in the electoral campaign. Thus, political parties can surpass the limit and spend money outside the law, without fearing sanctions. The amendment would practically annul the role of a law on the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns, since it would eliminate the censuring of electoral competitors for failure to observe the legislation. Article 28 talks about the way in which campaign contributions can be collected and spent, and also about their limits,” the signatory NGOs point out in a press release.
The NGOs claim that, through the amendments brought to the law, campaign contributions that do not observe the provisions of Article 28 will no longer be confiscated and, hence, would no longer become budget revenue, the deterrent character of the sanction thus disappearing. Moreover, the NGOs say, this is further underscored by Article 53, which confirms the fact that illegally-obtained sums are to be no longer confiscated.
“It basically eliminates the most important sanction, namely the confiscation of the sums illegally obtained by parties and candidates. This was the main deterrent, namely the loss of the money. The only remaining sanctions are the fines. The fine itself is not a sufficient deterrent in this field, because the sums obtained by the parties are far higher than the value of the fine,” the communique adds.
The NGOs warn that the modifications adopted by the Lower Chamber’s Judiciary Committee cancel the principle of a fair electoral competition on which the current law on the financing of political parties is built, favouring large political parties that can attract more funds. At the same time, it renders the political parties vulnerable, making them once again dependent on their sponsors.
“We consider that the proposed modifications seriously affect the fairness of the electoral processes and are contrary to the objectives undertaken as part of the GRECO rounds of monitorisation. Moreover, the amendments were introduced in a different bill already adopted by the Senate. We are asking Lower Chamber lawmakers to reject these amendments which would significantly diminish the fairness of the electoral process,” reads the NGOs’ press release.
The signatories are the NGOs members of the Politics Without Barriers Campaign (ActiveWatch, Asociatia, E-Civis, Civitas ’99 Association, Expert Forum Association, Funky Citizens Association, Civic Movement Association, Spiritual Militia, National Association of Counselling Offices for Citizens, Living Romania Association, Centre of Assistance for Non-governmental Organisations – CENTRAS, Centre of Resources for Public Participation – CeRe, Centre for Independent Journalism, Centre for Development Studies and International Cooperation, the ‘Uniti Salvam’ Community), the Centre for Public Innovation and the Centre for the Study of Democracy.
PSD MP Florin Iordache filed a series of amendments to a bill modifying the law on the financing of political parties, amendments that abrogate the provision according to which campaign contributions that surpass the legal limits are to be confiscated and the provision according to which the offenders have to pay to the budget the sums concerned.
At Florin Iordache’s proposal, abrogated from law no.334/2006 would be the article that stipulates that if the legal provisions concerning the limit and the source of campaign contributions are not observed, the sums of money concerned are to be confiscated and turned into state budget revenue irrespective of whether they represent personal income, donations or loans.
Iordache’s amendment was brought to a bill signed by eight Lower Chamber lawmakers representing ethnic minorities, a bill through which they were asking that the contributions for ethnic minorities’ organisations should be verified only during electoral campaigns and strictly in what concerns the financing of campaigns.
The bill was adopted by the Senate and entered the Lower Chamber’s Judiciary Committee. During the debates within the committee, lawmaker Florin Iordache filed a series of amendments that went beyond the financing of ethnic minorities’ organisations, and that concerned also the financing of all political parties, amendments that the committee adopted.
The most important amendment abrogates paragraph 13 of Article 28 of the law on the financing of parties, which stipulated that the sums of money that surpass the legal limits for campaign contributions are to be confiscated and turned into budget revenues. Confiscation has been eliminated in what concerns the sums that surpass the limits for the financing of referendum campaigns too.
Another amendment filed by Iordache abrogates Article 53, which stated that for the offences stipulated by Article 52 “the offender pays to the state budget the sums of money and/or the monetary value of the goods and services that formed the object of the offence, based on the Standing Electoral Authority’s decision.”
The bill received a favourable report as amended by Iordache and will next enter the Lower Chamber’s plenum, which will have a final vote on it.