ERJK orders parties to return 'donations' to SALK foundation

Headquarters of the Political Party Funding Supervision Committee (EJRK)
Headquarters of the Political Party Funding Supervision Committee (EJRK) Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK) decided free polling and advice given by the Liberal Citizen Foundation (SALK) to four parties during the run-up to the March elections constitutes a "prohibited donation". The parties must now return their "donations" to SALK.

"The commission came to the conclusion that considering our current regulation, especially what is stipulated in the Political Parties Act, it is still a service provided by a legal entity to political parties and this service was provided free of charge. In other words, in our view and in terms of the law, it is a prohibited donation," committee head Liisa Oviir told ERR on Thursday.

Oviir said the commission will determine the price and order the parties to return their donations to SALK.

"The information that we have been given and that we have gathered through our investigation is that four political parties received this service free of charge. These are the Reform Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Eesti 200 Party and the Estonian Centre Party," said Oviir.

Oviir said Isamaa and EKRE had not received such a service from SALK. 

Liisa Oviir. Source: ERR/Siim Lõvi

"There was no contact with these parties in this respect. The knowledge held by SALK was not shared with them. Therefore, in their case, there is no possibility to speak of a prohibited donation in the sense of the law," said Oviir.

It is not yet known how much the parties will have to return to SALK.

"A legal analysis needs to be made as to what is the right basis for the price. Is it cost-based, is it based on the average market price? This is something the Commission still has to analyze," said Oviir.

In August, the parties said they had not commissioned or paid for anything from SALK.

Earlier this year, after the March election, weekly paper Eesti Ekspress published an article about how SALK tried to influence the election results in favor of liberal parties. You can read the English translation here.

Jüristo: SALK does not make donations or provide services

SALK has not made any donations or provided services, but it is trying to achieve its stated goals, said Tarmo Jüristo, head of the foundation.

Liberal Citizen Foundation (SALK) Director Tarmo Jüristo. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

"It is not a service. I'll be interested to see how the ERJK qualifies it as a service and then calculates the price, because as far as I know, there is nothing comparable or similar anywhere here or nearby, so I really don't know how they will do it. But, in itself, it would be a very proud and pleasant surprise for us before Christmas, if ERJK suddenly decides that political parties have to start paying us for something that we have already done. I am looking forward to it," he said.

Jüristo said SALK does not intend to change its activities. In his opinion, however, the law could be changed as it is outdated.

"Since the ERJK itself has no competence to supervise anyone other than political parties, our ERJK in this case, it turns out, is not even involved. They can discuss whether the political parties have done their job properly. We have not heard any substantiated allegation from the ERJK or anywhere else that we have done anything wrong or broken any rules or laws. The dispute is whether the parties have acted in accordance with the Political Parties Act, which we have had since 2003," he said.

"This is probably going to be an interesting and substantive debate, which could be addressed with a view to the next elections because my personal opinion is that such a law is in dire need of renewal and adjustment," Jüristo added.

"What I want to underline is not that the ERJK should not deal with SALK, but on the contrary that the ERJK should have the capacity to supervise organizations like ours. But there are many more such organizations, we are just the only ones who have spoken openly about our activities," said Jüristo.

SALK was founded by Jüristo in 2020 to lead the campaign against changing the constitution to ban same-sex marriage.


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Editor: Aleksander Krjukov, Huko Aaspõllu, Merili Nael, Helen Wright

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