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Sweeping Political Financing and Oversight Bill to Take the Floor

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

On Wednesday, Parliament's Constitutional Committee submitted, to the plenary assembly, a long-awaited bill that would reform the funding and oversight polices of political parties.

The draft legislation is the fruit of proposals presented by the "People's Assembly," a public input initiative called by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves to address political turmoil last November.

One of the major reforms would be to significantly increase public funding to parties that do not pass the election threshold to get into Parliament.

Another amendment would reduce the security deposits that parties must come up with for each candidate - twice the monthly minimum salary - and which are only refundable if a candidate wins or gets a certain number of votes.

The bill also sets clearer donation rules and curbs the level of debt that is permissible for parties, two issues that have been at the center of past political scandals.

Another significant issue, the dispute over a ceiling for campaign financing, was left unresolved as the members of the Constitutional Committee could not come to an agreement.

Martin Helme, a leading member of the Estonian Conservative National Party, which failed to secure a place in Parliament in 2011, said the bill came as a relief.

"We feared that the current power system would be further cemented by directing even more money to the parties in Parliament and others would be left with nothing at all. But the best surprise was that the security deposit would be decreased," said Helme, adding that funding for parties in Parliament would still remain too high.

Officials are hoping that a law will be passed in the fall. With the Parliament's plenary assembly only beginning to review the bill, its content can still be significantly changed before it is passed.

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