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New TI Report Finds Serious Lack of Transparency of Election Campaign Financing in Western Balkans

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The Transparency International report ‘Buying Influence: Money and Elections in the Balkans’, launched on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, assessed transparency in election campaign financing in 2011-2012 in Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia, and non-electoral political party financing in Albania in 2012.

The Report notes that, Despite considerable improvements in the area of party financing in the Balkans, there are significant gaps in both election campaign financing laws and the way they are implemented.

“Although information on political parties’ donors is largely made available, financial reports submitted by the parties do not enjoy much trust in terms of accuracy”, states the report.

Transparency International says that, while political parties will comply with the laws on declaring finances if they know that the cost for breaking the rules is high, the actual situation and the findings of the report show that this has not been the case so far, due to non-implementation of otherwise relatively robust sanctioning mechanisms.

The Report notes that, despite relatively far reaching powers of the state oversight agencies charged with supervising the financing of political parties, those agencies cannot effectively hold political parties to account because of a lack of resources (Croatia, Serbia) or a lack of independence from political parties (Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia).

The Report notes the important and active role the NGOs in Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia play in monitoring political party and campaign financing. They carry out activities such as media monitoring, reviewing political parties’ financial reports and proposing political financing reforms.

“Oversight exercised by civil society should rightly complement supervision by state bodies, but all too often it is filling a gap. In Croatia, non-governmental organisations that oversee campaign financing are deemed considerably more effective than the State Electoral Commission in holding political parties to account”, the report states.

The report recommends stronger enforcement of anti corruption rules and ongoing public monitoring of election campaign spending, as well as a series of measures, including introduction of obligation to disclose information on election campaign funding before election day.

It also proposes that members of state oversight agencies should be drawn from across the political spectrum to and approved by all major political parties contesting elections, to ensure independence of state oversight agencies; and that other countries should adopt the practice, already existing in Macedonia, of making it a legal requirement for the media to publish unified price list for political advertising, in order to strengthen rules on equal access to the media.

“Increased transparency and better public knowledge about the flow of money in politics, makes it easier to detect and expose corrupt practices. Transparency in political party financing can also help citizens to make informed voting decisions and therefore bolster democratic processes. All this has made political party financing a strong focus for anti-corruption reforms in the Balkans, which have largely been driven by the EU accession process”, states the report “Buying Influence: Money and Elections in the Balkans”.

For the full Report, visit the website of Transparency International. (Source: Transparency International)

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