Coalition poised to unveil proposals on party finances, state funding

The government is to draft legislation aimed at creating greater transparency regarding party finances and to reduce the total funding they receive to around 10 million euros a year, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini.

Over the last few weeks Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos have been discussing proposals aimed at restoring some trust in the political system. While the measures that are going to be proposed will be of a permanent nature, the government wants to publicize them before the local and European Parliament elections in May in the hope that they will also benefit New Democracy’s and PASOK’s ratings.

The latest idea is to introduce a new set of measures regarding party finances. The proposals being considered mean that parties would be forced to keep more detailed accounts and that their finances would not be checked by Parliament but by a special committee of judges. Also, citizens’ donations to parties would not be allowed to exceed 50,000 euros and, regardless of the amount, would have to be made public.

Any legislation would also contain provisions to reduce state funding for parties that have MPs elected to Parliament. A number of reductions over the last few years led to the total amount parliamentary parties receive dropping to 20 million euros last year. The government is thinking about halving this.

A bill containing these proposals is due to be submitted to Parliament in June.

The issue of party finances, particularly in terms of the debts racked up by New Democracy and PASOK, has been troublesome for the government. Last month, pro-business party Drasi called on New Democracy to come clean about the state of its bank loans after the conservatives insisted they are paying off their debts without delay. The exchange was prompted by European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia informing Drasi leader Theodoros Skylakakis, who is an MEP, that ND owes 145 million euros and PASOK a little less. The commissioner also said that the majority of the loans were nonperforming as of January 2013.

Drasi called for further clarification and claimed that New Democracy is likely to be paying 11 to 12 million euros in annual interest, when its state funding only reaches 6 million euros a year.