THE THREE main presidential candidates have all released the basic details of their campaign expenditure and all appeared to have spent less than the one-million-euro limit set by the law. We say ‘appeared’ because there could have been under the table payments that would not have been included in the expenditure list, not to mention undeclared donations.
Nicos Anastasiades spent €971,436, Nicolas Papadopoulos €908,366 and Stavros Malas €999,028. A little more than half the spending went on advertising and promotion, which was to be expected, and the rest was spent on rents, administration, staff and elections events. The figures will be checked by the auditor-general’s office, which has also collected information from each medium that carried election advertising.
This exercise is nothing more than a charade, thought up by the political parties, under pressure from the Council of Europe, so they could claim they were battling corruption by legislating for transparency and openness in election campaigns. A limit on campaign spending was also imposed on individual candidates in the last parliamentary elections as part of this alleged transparency drive.
Ceilings on campaign spending and their monitoring may ensure a level playing field for all the candidates, assuming all spending is declared, but do nothing to battle, let alone eliminate corruption. If the parties and the politicians had any intention of fighting corruption they would have passed a law making it compulsory for presidential candidates as well as parties to put a name (company or individual) next to every donation made. Although the parties were under pressure from the Council of Europe to pass legislation stipulating this, they unanimously decided not to do so.
Now we know that our new president received €330,100 in contributions from individuals and €641,500 from companies, but nobody apart from his accountants knows who they were. How do we know that some of the funds were not given to secure specific favours from Anastasiades if he was elected? The only safeguard against this type of corruption would be for people to know who the donors were and how much they contributed. Malas raised close to a million euro. Did voters not have a right to know who was funding the campaign of this so-called independent candidate, if only to establish whether he was truly independent? And what if a candidate received funding from a foreign company, which is against the law.
How do we know this law was respected if there is no disclosure of campaign contributors? Our legislators have ensured that this type of law-breaking could continue and corrupt dealings could be covered up by making the law focus on how much was being spent by each candidate, while completely ignoring who was funding them.