Despite the financial squeeze and cutbacks across the board, the gravy train of state assistance to political parties is chugging along nicely.
Each year parties are entitled to a state subsidy, providing them resources to carry out their parliamentary work.
Extraordinary or ad hoc funds are allocated in election years.
This year, the eight parties in parliament – following the May legislative elections – will be funded by the taxpayer to the tune of €10.5m.
This figure, however, includes the ad hoc subsidy of €3.3m disbursed to the parties for parliamentary and municipal elections, the latter to be held this December.
For 2017, the parties will receive €10.74m in total. Again, this includes an ad hoc payout of €2.56m to be spent on campaigning for the February 2018 presidential elections. Under the law, the financial assistance for election campaigns must be disbursed at least three months before the date of the elections in question.
By contrast, in 2015 – a non-election year – the parties received €6.96m. But even accounting for the additional boost given in 2016 for the legislative and municipal elections, the 2016 budget was still some €240,000 higher than that of the previous year.
Following this year’s legislative elections and the entry into parliament of eight parties, the number of parliamentary associates or assistants was raised from 87 to 101.
Although these associates are employed by the parties, they are in fact on the payroll of central government. Their salaries are fixed at the A8 government payscale.
For 2017, €3.75m has been set aside for the parliamentary associates, compared to €3.51m in 2016, and €2.75m in 2015.
Currently, the 56 MPs are assigned one assistant each. Another three parliamentary associates are assigned to the representatives in parliament of the Armenian, Latin and Maronite religious groups.
On top of that, 42 assistants are assigned to the parties themselves. Though designated as well as parliamentary associates, they more often than not work out of party offices.
These latter positions are not advertised, and hiring is usually based on connections. As a result, the practice continues of hiring either retired civil servants or relatives of party cadres.
Calls by certain political parties, such as the Greens, for instituting criteria for the hiring of this category of assistants have fallen on deaf ears.
And according to Politis, over and above the annual state subsidy, an additional €100,000 is disbursed each year overall to the parties. This amount is set aside for actions to be undertaken by the parties to raise awareness about the Cyprus problem.
Up until 2015, the parties were obliged to apply to the foreign ministry to receive this extra funding. Now, however, this requirement has been scrapped, and the funds are allocated without any filtering process.