NGOs call for new rules
to combat political corruption
The Constitutional Court
last week found numerous clauses in legislation related to party funding to be
unconstitutional. At the same time, three influential NGOs – Transparency
International, Freedom House and the Hungarian Nézőpont Institute – called for
a tightening of rules.
In a joint statement
issued last Wednesday, the organisations said public trust was being eroded by
a system that sees contributors to political parties rewarded with state
contracts, while the main parties spent more than ten times the legal limit on
their campaigns in the run up to the last general election.
The Constitutional Court
ruled last week that four clauses in legislation on party finances and party
foundations are unconstitutional. Two clauses were related to rules regarding
which parliamentary groups are entitled to what level of state subsidy.
The court also binned
legislation that prevented state financial authorities from investigating the
bookkeeping of foundations set up by political parties, along with provisions
giving such foundations immunity from the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The court ruled that the
existing legislation was unconstitutional in that it did not include safeguards
to ensure that donations to charitable foundations cannot be used as a means of
indirect party funding.
The ruling Hungarian
Socialist Party (MSZP) and the main opposition Fidesz party both accepted the
You scratch my back…
A call for urgent reforms
and transparency in party funding was issued last week by the non-governmental
organisations Freedom House, Transparency International and the Hungarian
Nézőpont (Perspective) Institute.
The NGOs’ recommendations
include the setting up of a single account from which all entitled political
parties would be funded transparently, while calling for a tenfold increase in
the permitted level of campaign spending and a reduction of the official
campaign period to a maximum of 60 days.
They also recommend that
the State Audit Office be given far reaching powers to look into party funding.
The deputy director of the Hungarian branch of Washington-based Freedom House
pointed out that while parties are only permitted to spend HUF 386 million (EUR
1.53 million) on their election campaigns, a single television advert can cost
HUF 1.5 million (EUR 5,944). Bálint Molnár said that, despite this, some HUF
7.3 billion (EUR 28.92 million) was spent on advertising before the 2006
The head of Berlin-based
Transparency International’s Hungarian office, Noémi Alexa, said that as things
stand, businessmen or companies that make large donations to political parties
are eventually rewarded with state contracts.
We have a problem
When asked about the
issue of party funding at a meeting of foreign correspondents on the same day,
Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány acknowledged that “one of the main causes of
corruption is non-transparent party funding.” He added that party funding comes
in part from hundreds of businessmen at the local level and “it is almost
impossible to know who is paying for what” or to keep tabs on the widespread
“trading of favours”.