Political finances independence from industrial and financial groups, state funding of political parties, how to force parties to declare their real expenses and how to eliminate the abuse of administrative resources during elections – experts discussed these issues at the second public consultation on “Equal access to politics”. The event was organized by NGO Center UA together with a think-tank Collegium of Anna Yaroslavna (CAY) on July 20 at Ukrainian Crisis Media Center.
“To be tedious, to start reading political programs, to cling to every word in order to make politics a serious thing,” – that is what voters have to focus on for parties to start competing for their votes by programs, but not by slogans, eventually. This was emphasized in the opening word by the Chairwoman of CAY Vira Nanivska and by the Head of Center UA Oleh Rybachuk.
The consultation participants discussed four issues on political finances in Ukraine.
- Will political parties become independent from financial and industrial groups due to state funding? What kind of problems does the Law on state funding of political parties solve?
Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, the Chief Executive Director of “Transparency International Ukraine”: “The state funding itself is not enough for eliminating the influence of “oligarchs money.” “It is very important not to raise overexpectations. The Law on state funding does not overcome political corruption, but it is one of the significant elements from the list of home-tasks that we need to complete. Along with that there are: regulation of political advertising, limitation of deputies’ immunity, etc.
The head of the “Eidos” Centre Victor Taran: Today we face a problem of launching state financing because neither the regulator, nor the political players, nor the voters are sufficiently aware of how the new law operates. “It is important for the society to be engaged in three things: to explain the key provisions of the law, to teach political parties, civic activists and the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) how to use this law. All of this is necessary in order to meet in October and discuss how the law works and whether it is necessary to change something.”
- How to stimulate the candidates and parties to declare their real expenses?
Denis Kovryzhenko, the senior legal adviser of IFES: public control in the current situation is the only effective motivation for parties to be transparent. If voters and activists pay attention which political forces have actually declared their expenses, and which ones of them, on the contrary, have hidden, then it will have more impact than an administrative protocol and a fine issued for not providing the report. “Parties should be stimulated by relevant public control, by pro-active role of the regulator in identifying violations and publishing information on these violations in order to initiate, at least, hypothetical political responsibility.”
- What kind of reporting on party expenses do we need in order to provide control over political finances?
Natalia Vadìmova, the Head of the CEC Secretariat Department of control over the use of funds: current reporting standards are sufficient because the form of reporting provides information on all operations related to the movement of funds on the account of the election fund. The larger problem is the lack of CEC capability to compare the real and declared expenses and a low motivation of parties to provide reports. In 2014, all parties submitted their financial reports, but if we weren’t working with parties, then there wouldn’t have been any reports.
Oleg Sytnyk, Deputy Director of the NACP Department on preventing political corruption: our Agency has already approved a very detailed reporting form, where, in addition to the financial information, general information about political forces is included. “We wanted this information to be interesting not just to NACP, but also to an average citizen, so that he or she had an opportunity to get acquainted with this party. That’s why the first chapter contains general information: a number of local organizations, in which regions the party is represented, etc.” The difficulty of filling out and checking the report is the reverse side of the procedure, so NACP together with IFES will hold trainings for political parties on filling out the forms.
- What role does the administrative resources play in election campaigns and how to limit their abuse?
Denis Kovryzhenko: “Qualitative monitoring of the administrative resources use and a resulting penalty for this violation still do not exist. A year ago there was a public meeting of civic activists with the President, in hot pursuit of the elections in the district 205, where direct and indirect bribery of voters took place, and the President demanded to improve the legislation. A draft law regulating the activity of charitable foundations that operate during election campaigns was prepared and provided for criminalization of indirect bribery. But the bill is still in the President administration.”
Let us recall that the goal of “Equal access to politics” is to ensure the right of citizens to be elected in a free and fair election. At the presentation of the agenda the following sets of challenges to equal access to politics in Ukraine were emphasized:
- Limitation by the existing legislation of the right of citizens to be elected
- Administrative restrictions for participation in the electoral process
- Non-transparent funding of parties and election campaigns
- Dependency of the Ukrainian mass media on political and business interests
- Ukraine is falling behind the world trend of continuous participation of people in the decision-making process
Materials and results of the first public consultation with the stakeholders “Why does Ukraine need to change the election rules?” are available on our website.
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