By Elias Hazou
AFTER months of discussions, the House on Thursday finally passed a new Political Parties Law (PPL) purporting to boost party-funding transparency in a bid to root out graft.
Under the amended legislation, the parties must from now open their books to the Auditor-general.
Anonymous contributions are prohibited. The bill covers the finances of parties, not of MPs as such.
Private persons or legal entities may make contributions of up to €50,000. A receipt must be issued for each contribution, and the parties must keep records of contributors’ information – the name and ID number, or the registration number where a company is concerned.
Except for the Youth Board, contributions from public-law entities are prohibited.
By March 31 of each year the parties must post on their website – and in tandem forward to the Commissioner of the Political Parties’ Register – a list of the persons making contributions of over €500 during the immediately preceding year.
Fines are imposed for non-compliance.
Although the bill breezed through the House plenary – garnering 51 of 56 possible votes – there was no lack of controversy due to a last-minute amendment introduced by ruling DISY together with main opposition AKEL.
The two big parties inserted a clause, whereby, in order for a party not holding a seat in parliament to be eligible for the annual state grant, it must have acquired 3 per cent of the popular vote in the last legislative elections.
Previously, the threshold for access to state funds was 1.5 per cent of the popular vote.
In addition, AKEL and DISY colluded to shake up the allocation system for state grants, giving them an even larger slice of the pie.
Now, the first 15 per cent of the annual state grant is to be distributed equally among the parties, the rest doled out according to the parties’ strength in the last parliamentary elections.
Before the change, 22 per cent of the funds were allocated equally.
Moreover, extraordinary funds disbursed for election-campaign spending are to be allocated solely based on party strength.
Inevitably, the smaller parties accused DISY and AKEL of running roughshod over the rest.
They linked the new restrictions on access to state funds to a joint AKEL-DISY proposal that would raise the electoral threshold for entry to parliament from 2 per cent to 3.6 per cent of the popular vote.
That bill comes up at the plenum next week.
“They are trying to choke us,” protested Demetris Syllouris, head of the single-seat EVROKO party.
George Perdikis of the Greens was likewise dramatic:
“You are raising the threshold, you are cutting our funds. What else do you want, guys?
“Do you want us to surrender? Well, we shall not.”