Presidential candidates may each spend up to €1 million on their election campaigns, under a law passed by the House on Thursday.
A government bill amending the law governing the election of President and Vice President, had set the spending cap per candidate at €2 million. But during debate at the House interior affairs committee, the majority of parties agreed this should be lowered to €1 million.
Ruling DISY was on board with the €2 million ceiling proposed by the government.
The €1 million ceiling which now applies includes the spending made by both the candidates or their election campaign teams as well as spending made on their behalf (by third parties).
Under the Political Parties Law (Amended) of 2015, political parties must make full disclosure of how much they spend on candidates, both in cash and in specie. This obligation also applies to third parties, such as individuals or organisations, and covers all elections involving state officials – including elections for the presidency.
Each payment (for ads, and so forth) made by a candidate or his/her electoral representative must be accompanied by an invoice or receipt; for amounts over €100, the transaction must take place by bank wire transfer or cheque.
But lawmakers have not closed all the loopholes.
In the upcoming 2018 presidential elections, for instance, a private backer might throw a bash for a candidate. Whereas the money spent on the function must be disclosed to authorities (the auditor-general), it still leaves room for creative accounting. For example, the invoice for the party might state that 800 guests were invited, whereas in reality 1,000 actually attended.
Under the same law passed on Thursday, the minimum deposit required of a presidential candidate was raised from €1,700 to €2,000. The original government bill had provided for increasing the deposit to €10,000.
The draft government bill also included an amending provision where in the event a candidate should for any reason withdraw from a presidential election– for example between the first and second rounds – the election procedure would continue normally.
It’s understood the provision was inserted so as to prevent any one candidate from halting the election procedure by withdrawing.
For example, where a candidate comes in second place in the first round of voting with, say, 25 per cent, he or she might decide to pull out, realizing that they do not stand a chance in the second round.
Once they withdrew, the election procedure would be scrapped and elections are called from scratch.
The provision inserted by the government was intended to prevent this.
But during the House plenary, AKEL tabled their own proposal to delete this provision from the law. Their proposal received sufficient backing from other opposition parties, and the provision was scrubbed.