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Removing of inconsistencies in the campaign financing system

Transparency – Serbia (official chapter of Transparency International) urges that rules on financing of the election campaign should be improved before calling for presidential elections and that organizing of the elections should not be burdened with excessive expenses.

Candidate proposers at presidential elections in 2017 will receive one third less money from the budget than in 2012, which is a consequence of law amending. However, at the same time will receive significantly more than for parliamentary elections held in May 2016! Reason for that is that only one fifth of money from the budget is divided into equal shares to all participants, and in presidential 50%. Thus in 2016 all parties won 5,8 million of RSD each prior to parliamentary elections, and now, in the case if 12 candidates appear (like in 2012) each of their proposers will receive almost five times more - 26,7 million of RSD. Having in mind that campaign expenses for parliamentary and presidential elections are very similar, this example clearly shows that Law on Financing of Political Activities has no clear goal for budget financing and that loophole should be removed. However, in every change of the Law one must take care of equality of the election participants, that is seriously violated with system of financing. Namely, amendments to the Law from the end of 2014, that were unfortunately, not executed in line with the Anti-corruption Strategy adopted only one year earlier, introduced possibility to spend budget money intended for financing of regular work of political subject for election campaign purpose. From that moment on election race privileges candidates of larger parliamentary parties, especially related to independent candidates of non-parliamentary opposition.

Besides from financing of election campaign expenses one should have in mind expenses of organizing of the elections. Expense of the state for organizing of election process was estimated in the budget of Serbia for 2017 to over 10 million of Euros. Since most of the money goes for compensations for members of electoral committees, Transparency Serbia urges the parliamentary parties that already have representatives in their permanent electoral committees not to create additional expenses to the budget, that can be higher than 30 million of RSD per one presidential candidate[1], by appointing their personnel in extended composition of electoral committees.

At the same time, Transparency Serbia invites the Government and deputy groups to propose members of the Supervisory Committee as soon as possible[2], so it can be established before the elections, first time after 2000. That body can be of significance since in existing legal framework none of the organs has formal jurisdiction for numerous disputable situations that regularly occur during the campaign, and especially for excessive appearance of current state officials in performing of allegedly regular duties.

Transparency – Serbia

Belgrade, 19 December 2016

Addendum – Detailed review of data on budget allocations related to elections and election campaign financing

Amount for campaign financing in the budget for 2017 is properly calculated and is 641.760.000[3]. If the number of presidential candidates is the same as five years ago, their proposers will receive approximately one third less for the campaign then they did then, which is a consequence of legal reduction of the percentage of budget allocations. Similarly, candidate proposers that enter second round of elections (which regularly occurs in the past 20 years) can count on around 1,5 million of Euros from the budget, while in 2012 DS and SNS shared 2,2 Euros each from the budget for campaigns of their presidential candidates.

Expenses of election organization, on the line of National Assembly are 1.107.456.000 of RSD. That should be supplemented with 26,1 million for work of Republic Election Commission, as well as around 60 million of expenses for work of other organs (Administrative Court, Statistical Office, some ministries). It is interesting that the National Assembly at first asked 100 million of RSD more for organizing of elections, but these expenses are reduced with amendment. It remains to be seen whether it was demagogic correction of the budget or excessive estimation of expenses.

Anti-corruption Agency will receive, for control of election campaign expenses, 12,6 million of RSD, amount that is supposed to be sufficient for field control and that is in line with legal parameters (twice the minimum 1% of allocation for campaign financing). Transparency – Serbia reminds that amendments of the Law should precise duties of the Agency in regards to scope and timeframe of the control of the reports on campaign financing, to avoid that Serbia enters new election cycle, and that procedures for violation of regulations in previous elections are not even initiated, which can be the case now[4].


 


[1] Each party, coalition or group of citizens that proposes presidential candidate has legal right to appoint one member and one deputy member into extended composition of electoral committees. In 2016 elections there were more than 8300 polling stations. With compensation of 2000 RSD per person, total expense from the budget for this purpose can overcome 30 million of RSD per one candidate proposer. On the other hand, membership of voting committees in permanent composition mostly reflect on the structure of the National Assembly, that ways larger parliamentary parties will already have their representatives in polling stations on that account.

[2] Government of Serbia hasn’t responded to the invitation of the president of the Assembly from 2016 nor has the largest political party, and the candidates were proposed only by SPS, JS and opposition party DS.

[3] Total tax incomes that represent basis are 916.800.000.000 RSD, and 0,07% out of that is 760.000

[4] Agency still hasn’t published the report on control of campaign financing in parliamentary elections from May 2016.

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