Party financing

The revision of legislation concerning the subsidizing of political parties and deputy candidates discussed by the Inner Cabinet yesterday is not only mandated by the new Article 29 of the Greek Constitution, but also by the principle of political equality. The latter is undermined by the precipitous rise in pre-electoral expenditure and the subsequent marginalization of those who cannot catch up with the increases. In this light, no one would challenge the soundness of the «basic guidelines» which were laid out by the prime minister yesterday: We all want transparency and equality of opportunity, and we all acknowledge the need to put a break on pre-election expenditure. The question is, to what extent can the new legislation be implemented and guarantee effective monitoring? No one doubts that the shift of pre-electoral discussion from coffee shops and squares to television debates and commercials has prompted a surge in the cost of election campaigns and a corresponding drop in quality (as television puts emphasis on appearances rather than substance). However, regardless of the actual content of legislation, it is questionable whether the role of television can be limited in practice. With the exception of political advertisements, it is doubtful whether legislation can actually limit candidates’ appearances on television shows. It is also difficult to ban debates between figures who are not candidates themselves but who actively promote the positions of parties or candidates. Similarly, it can be difficult to halt business donations to parties and candidates, as these are often disguised behind contributions from political action committees as happens in the United States, where parties often seek names of supposed supporters to divide up the huge contributions made by their politically influential friends. By raising these issues we only aim to highlight the difficulties involved in implementing ambitious measures, and to give a reminder that the most effective way to prevent reforms is to introduce laws that are so draconian that they eventually remain a dead letter. The government and opposition are therefore called upon to examine the nascent legal framework and make sure it is pragmatic and feasible. And they are definitely called upon to enforce the analytical publication of the names of all donors, so that if parties’ connection to private capital is unavoidable then it will at least be known to voters. The latter will then easily draw their own conclusions. Unemployed teachers protest