Presidential election campaign funding has always been shrouded in secrecy. There could have been a law forcing candidates to give detailed lists of every individual and company that contributed to their election campaign as well as the amount, but the political parties have refused to entertain the idea.
This was a matter on which Akel and Disy were always united, taking a firm stand against disclosure, claiming that making the source of funding public would prevent potential donors from giving money to a candidate. Although this may be superficially correct, it could also be argued that the secrecy surrounding funding is conducive to corruption.
On Sunday Politis published a report claiming that large Limassol-based firm Columbia Shipmanagement Ltd had paid €200,000 into an account of presidential candidate Nikos Christodoulides. Asked to deny or confirm the report, the candidate’s campaign team chose to say nothing, perhaps in the hope that the matter would not become a part of the campaign.
Such a response, from a candidate who pledges to bring accountability and transparency to government if elected is not just arrogant, but it smacks of double standards. Why does Christodoulides refuse to comment on the matter? Columbia Shipmanagement is a respected company that has made a large contribution to the Cyprus economy over the years, so why is he embarrassed to say he has received money from it for his campaign?
Admittedly it is quite an amount, 20 per cent of the €1 million total a candidate is legally permitted to spend on their campaign. Interestingly, when asked about his campaign resources, Christodoulides claimed he would raise the money through crowd-funding, something that has not worked if he accepted €200,000 from a single donor. Perhaps he has received similar amounts from other companies, which may explain why his campaign staff do not want any public discussion of the matter.
He is mounting an extravagant campaign without having received a cent, according to his own admission, from the parties backing him, in contrast to Averof Neophytou and Andreas Mavroyiannis. Mavroyiannis, commendably, on Tuesday released a list of his donors, who gave more than €10,000 to his campaign. He was following the example set by independent candidate Giorgos Colocassides. It is therefore perfectly acceptable for the voter to ask where does a candidate with no financial backing from the parties (Mavroyiannis received €510,000 from Akel) that support him find the funds to stage a no-expenses-spared election campaign?
We doubt the voter will receive any answer from Christodoulides, who has made a habit of arrogantly refusing to answer awkward questions. But it is an imperative, in a democratic society, for people to know the identity of the funders of every candidate. Full transparency on funding would be a step in combating the corruption that all the candidates have pledged to tackle.