Monday, 18 June 2018

Const.Court rejects senators' proposal to change party financing

ČTK |
6 March 2018

Brno, March 5 (CTK) - The Czech Constitutional Court (US) rejected on Monday the proposal to change the law on the financing of political parties, submitted by a group of 18 senators criticising the current law for extending the gap between established mainstream parties and minor parties.

The current law, as amended in early 2017, has reduced the subsidies for the minor parties and increased those going to big, wealthy parties, the complainants said.

Judge-rapporteur Radovan Suchanek said the US could not enquire into whether the law is optimal but only whether it is in harmony with the constitution.

The law does not prevent a free competition of political parties, Suchanek said and mentioned the result of the general election of October 2017 when the record number of nine parties entered the Chamber of Deputies.

Suchanek also argued that some of the complaining senators must have previously supported the current law in the upper house's vote, otherwise it would not have made it through.

The senators challenged, among others, the condition of at least a 3-percent election gain for a party to be eligible for a regular state subsidy. The system is hugely advantageous for the parties crossing the 3-percent limit, compared with those ending narrowly below it.

The state subsidy for a party crossing the 3-percent limit is six million crowns a year, plus an annual 200,000 crowns for each tenth of percent the party received above the limit, but only up to the 5-percent cap.

Furthermore, parties receive an annual 900,000 crowns for a deputy or senator's mandate.

The complainants also criticised the law's article saying that only banks and other financial institutions can loan money to parties. As a result, big parties have an easier access to loans, since banks are less willing to extend them to small parties, the senators said.

The court said the article enhances the transparency of political parties' financing.

The US also dealt with the limit set for financial donations to parties, which is three million crowns from one individual or corporation a year. This thwarts parties' possible sponsoring each other within their cooperation ahead of elections, the senators objected.

The US, nevertheless, said the Czech law in this respect is comparable with foreign systems and the given limit has legitimate reasons, which is the effort to minimise the risk of corruption and protect a fair competition of political forces.

The senator's last reservation aimed against the rules of the financing of political institutes of parties. The system of their subsidising too, is advantageous for the parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies, the complainants said.

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