Committee Reviews Proposals to Clean Up Party Business
The Estonian Parliament building
( Photo: Postimees/Scanpix )
Parliament's Constitutional Committee yesterday reviewed proposals for party financing reform, expected to be a hotly debated topic this year.
Sparked by several party financing scandals that emerged in spring and summer, debate has been mounting over allegedly widespread corruption, yielding around 80 proposals for transparency and funding reforms during the summer recess.
"Will we limit our task specifically to party financing and related regulation, or should we expand to the broader election system and rights?" committee chairman Rait Maruste asked in an ERR radio interview.
According to Maruste, many of proposed reforms for funding rules are similar, focusing on cutting back campaign spending and increasing membership fees. But there are fundamental differences as well, hinging on whether private sector donations should be welcomed or prohibited.
Speaking to ETV, Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder called for more competition amongst political parties. Funds from the national budget should be allocated more evenly, he said, so that parties not represented in Parliament have a better chance of taking part in political dialogue.
"If we divvy up most of the funds from the national budget amongst parties in Parliament, a competition-free safety zone will emerge. Is this reasonable? I doubt it,” said Teder.
In another interview with ETV, former justice chancellor Allar Jõks said that the most effective reform would be to reduce party expenses, and thereby lessen the temptation to obtain funds illegally. Parliament should restrict campaign spending either financially or by banning expensive media such as TV advertising, Jõks said.
“That would create a situation in which parties will lack such a thirst for illegal funds,” said Jõks.
"There is reason for optimism, because this time NGOs are firmly backing the issue, most media channels have united to back the issue, and both the justice of chancellor and the auditor general have made very concrete proposals. It would be against their institutional dignity to simply leave those proposals in a desk drawer,” said Jõks.
The committee will continue reviewing the proposals on September 25.