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Právo: Czech presidential candidates can be sponsored from abroad

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Prague, Aug 8 (CTK) – Foreign businesspeople or firms can fund campaigns of Czech presidential candidates since there is no law to ban this, daily Pravo writes today.

The law on political parties sets a three-million-crown limit for a sponsor’s gift, but there are no caps for supporters of a presidential candidate.

There is only a legal limit for the the whole costs of the campaign before the first and second rounds of a presidential election that must not exceed 40 and ten million crowns, respectively. However, anyone can pay this sum or its part, including foreign sponsors, Jan Outly, from the Office Supervising the Financial Management of Political Parties and Movements, confirmed to Pravo.

“There is no law on presidential candidates similar to the law on political parties… Unlike them, political parties must not accept a gift from a foreign donor,” Outly said.

All finances for the campaign must go through a transparent election account. The candidates must release their accounts, including sponsor gifts, within 90 days after the presidential election, Human Rights and Legislation Minister Jan Chvojka (Social Democrats, CSSD) confirmed.

Pravo says all candidates to run for president at the beginning of 2018 are dependent on sponsors, except for lyricist and businessman Michal Horacek who announced that he would cover the campaign costs from his own sources completely.

Moreover, a presidential candidate can borrow money for the campaign from anyone, including individuals and firms, while political parties must take a loan from a banking institution only, Pravo says.

The office supervising the parties’ funding wants to deal with the situation accompanying the presidential election, its representative Jiri Navratil told Pravo.

MP Martin Plisek (opposition TOP 09), from the constitutional- legal committee of the Chamber of Deputies, has criticised the situation.

“In a situation where various limits and restrictions were introduced for parties and movements, it is not logical that the level of financial gifts for presidential candidates is unlimited. The president appoints members of the CNB central bank’s council. It is not desirable if a group influenced its composition,” Plisek told the paper.

“The same applies to a campaign conducted for foreign money. It is dangerous and undesirable if, for instance, Russian firms paid a presidential candidate’s campaign,” Plisek added.

MP Marek Benda (opposition Civic Democrats, ODS) admitted that the lawmakers may have forgotten to set the conditions of a presidential campaign. If they decided to limit financial gifts for the candidates, they must do so very carefully, he added.

Benda pointed to the campaign before the previous direct presidential election in 2013 after which Jan Fischer, former PM, and the winner, Milos Zeman, were the only candidates to end up with debts. The former had debts of eight million crowns and the latter three million.

Zeman repaid the debt in June 2013, five months after the election, Fischer a month later.

“Jan Fischer became the finance minister and all of a sudden someone emerged to cover the debt for him,” Benda said.

Daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) reported in April 2013 that Zeman’s election team was keeping two accounting books, an official one on a transparent account and the other on the Citizens’ Rights Party and the Friends of Milos Zeman partner civic association that was suspected of paying part of the campaign costs secretly, Pravo writes.

Other candidates had a surplus from the campaign and they donated the remaining money to charity in harmony with the law, Pravo adds.

($1=22.135 crowns)

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