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Cyprus

Party funding bill edges towards plenum vote

DISY leader has suggested proportional sharing of the government grant to parties

By Angelos Anastasiou

A final version of the party-funding bill, scheduled to emerge from next week’s House Ethics committee session, will be put to a plenary vote next Thursday, committee chairman Nicos Nicolaides said on Tuesday.

According to Nicolaides, during Tuesday’s session, the committee reached consensus on most key points with the exception of a controversial proposal by ruling DISY leader Averof Neophytou to link the share of the government grant received by political parties to the number of votes won in parliamentary elections – the current system splits part of it equally among parliamentary parties.

Nicolaides said that donations up to €50,000 by individuals or legal persons will be permitted, except for certain cases where the limit will be decreased to €5,000.

The new bill will also ban all anonymous donations, as well as the sponsoring of party-organised events by public organisations, with the exception of events organised by the Cyprus Youth Board.

By the end of March of each year, parties will be obliged to post online a comprehensive list of the names of donors, as well as all amounts over €500 offered by individuals. The list must also be forwarded to the Political Party Registrar.

According to the provisions of the bill, failure to comply will be a criminal offence and incur a fine three times the undeclared donations.

DISY deputy Andreas Kyprianou said the final version of the bill fully harmonises Cyprus with GRECO – a European Council anti-corruption body – guidelines.

He pointed out that anonymous donations will no longer be permitted, and that the finances of parties, as well as affiliated organisations, will be scrutinised by the Audit Service.
Kyprianou deemed the date set for a plenary vote on the bill – July 9 – “extremely important” as this will translate to a run-up to next year’s parliamentary elections under the new regime.

AKEL MP Aristos Damianou said that despite several improvements, discussion of the bill is far from complete.

He listed the definition of the term “affiliated organisations”, as well as Neophytou’s proposal for proportional sharing of the government grant to parties, as examples of issues to be ironed out.

The Greens’ leader Yiorgos Perdikis voiced dismay at the proposal by the DISY leader.

“It is truly a shame that political leaders stoop to this level,” he said.

“After years of having a large chunk of the government grant split equally among parties, so that they can operate under certain standards, it is really sad and unconducive to a moderate and civilised political climate – envisioned by Mr Averof – for this Procrustean proposal by Mr Averof for the proportional disbursement of the government grant.”

At 2.21 per cent in the last elections – 2011 – which earned them a single seat in the 56-strong parliament, the Greens are the smallest parliamentary party, meaning they stand to lose the most, should the proposal make it through the plenum.

Perdikis called on Neophytou to “recall his good self” and “withdraw this amendment”.

“It leads to the financial suffocation of smaller parties, because we don’t have donations, we don’t have sponsors funding us.”

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