EVERYONE would like the coalition of civil organisations, Transparency Now, which has undertaken an initiative to bring more transparency to political party funding, to succeed, but there is a feeling that they will hit a reinforced concrete wall. If there is one issue that unites all political parties it is the secrecy of funding, which they have protected for years.
Admittedly, they have never been under great pressure to reveal the identities of their financial backers apart from the odd newspaper article and the occasional announcement by an NGO that are ignored and quickly forgotten. Having a group of civil organisations demanding transparency, might increase the pressure, but whether it would be enough to change things remains to be seen.
Transparency Now has organised a petition that is close to achieving its target of 5,000 signatures. Once the target was met, the president of the House promised to push for a review of the 2012 Political Parties Law at the House ethics committee. Representatives of Transparency Now on Tuesday met AKEL chief Andros Kyprianou, who told them that AKEL would set up a dedicated team to look into the matter with the group and go through the law, ‘article by article’, with a view to improving its provisions.
Among the key demands of the group are a ban on anonymous contributions to parties, the change of the status of parties to legal entities, a ban on contributions from semi-government organisations and the imposition of tough penalties on parties that fail to publish audited accounts on time. The truth is that in a real democracy such provisions would have been included in a law governing political parties and would not have been up for negotiation, especially as the parties receive substantial funding from the taxpayer.
Even if the parties agree to some of the demands, it is highly unlikely they would consent to the divulging of the identity of their contributors. When the law was being discussed in 2012, they all opposed such a provision, claiming that individuals and companies would be unwilling to contribute funds if they had to reveal their identity. This in itself was an indirect admission that anonymous contributions fostered political corruption.
If politics is ever to be cleaned up there must be transparency in party funding as well as election campaign financing. People have a right to know the links parties or candidates have with bankers, businessmen or unions just as they have the right to be informed, through the publication of audited accounts, how the parties have been spending the taxpayer’s money.
Transparency and accountability are essential to a well-functioning democracy, but we have had neither, as GRECO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption group has noted in its reports. Whether Transparency Now will be able to change things for the better is questionable considering the party resistance it is certain to encounter.