of political parties
Citizens are showing growing concern with regard to corruption linked to
political parties? gradual loss of independence and the occurrence of
improper influence on political decisions through financial means. The
Assembly, stressing that political parties are an essential element of
pluralistic democracies, is seriously preoccupied by this situation.
A number of scandals linked to the financing of political parties in
several Council of Europe member states in all parts of Europe over
recent years has demonstrated that this issue must be addressed as a
matter of urgency in order to prevent the loss of citizens? interest
in the political life of their respective countries.
In order to maintain and increase the confidence of citizens in their
political systems, Council of Europe member states must adopt rules
governing the financing of political parties and electoral
The Assembly is of the opinion that the general principles on which
these rules should be based must be formulated at European level.
In this connection, the Assembly takes note of the activities of the
Council of Europe?s bodies in this field, in particular of the
guidelines for financing political parties, adopted by the European
Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) in March
2001, and of the ongoing work of the Council of Europe?s Working Group
on the Funding of Political Parties (GMCF) aimed at formulating
recommendations to member states on ?common rules against corruption
in the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns?.
The conditions in which political parties exercise their activities have
changed over recent decades and nowadays they need substantial financial
resources to gain visibility and to obtain political support for their
ideas. Therefore, the Assembly considers that the regulation
mechanisms must take these realities into account and empower political
parties to obtain sufficient resources to carry out their tasks and
The Assembly believes that the rules on financing political parties and
on electoral campaigns must be based on the following principles: a
reasonable balance between public and private funding, fair criteria for
the distribution of state contributions to parties, strict rules
concerning private donations, a threshold on parties? expenditures
linked to election campaigns, complete transparency of accounts, the
establishment of an independent audit authority and meaningful sanctions
for those who violate the rules.
Accordingly, the Assembly considers that:
As regards sources of finance
States should encourage citizens? participation in the activities
of political parties, including their financial support to parties.
It should be accepted that membership fees, traditional and
non-controversial sources of finance, are not sufficient to face the
everincreasing expense of political competition.
Political parties should receive financial contributions from the
state budget in order to prevent dependence on private donors and to
guarantee equality of chances between political parties. State
financial contributions should, on the one hand, be calculated in
ratio to the political support which the parties enjoy, evaluated on
objective criteria such as the number of votes cast or the number of
parliamentary seats won, and on the other hand enable new parties to
enter the political arena and to compete under fair conditions with
the more well-established parties.
State support should not exceed the level strictly necessary to
achieve the above objectives, since excessive reliance on state
funding can lead to the weakening of links between parties and their
Besides their financial contributions, states may contribute
indirectly to financing political parties based on law, for example
by covering the costs of postage and of meeting rooms, by supporting
party media, youth organisations and research institutes; and also
by granting tax incentives.
Together with state funding, private funding is an essential source
of finance for political parties. As private financing, in
particular donations, creates opportunities for influence and
corruption, the following rules should apply:
a ban on donations from state enterprises, enterprises under
state control, or firms which provide goods or services to the
public administration sector;
a ban on donations from companies domiciliated in offshore
strict limitations on donations from legal entities;
a legal limit on the maximum sum of donations;
a ban on donations by religious institutions.
As regards expenditure during election campaigns
impose limits on the maximum expenditure permitted during election
campaigns, given that in the absence of an upper threshold on
expenditure there are no limits to the escalation of costs, which is an
incentive for parties to intensify their search for funds.
As regards transparency
political parties must be fully transparent, which requires political
parties, in particular:
to keep strict accounts of all income and expenditure, which must be
submitted, at least once a year, to an independent auditing
authority and be made public;
to declare the identity of donors who give financial support
exceeding a certain limit.
As regards control
establish independent auditing bodies endowed with sufficient powers to
supervise the accounts of political parties and the expenses linked to
As regards sanctions
In the case of a
violation of the legislation, political parties should be subject to
meaningful sanctions, including the partial or total loss or mandatory
reimbursement of state contributions and the imposition of fines. When
individual responsibility is established, sanctions should include the
annulment of the elected mandate or a period of ineligibility.
As regards ?third
The legislation on
financing political parties and on electoral campaigns should also apply
to entities related to political parties, such as political foundations.
The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee
adopt ?common rules against corruption in the
funding of political parties and electoral campaigns?, taking into
account the work of the Multidisciplinary Group on Corruption (GMC)
pursuant to a proposal of its Working Group on the Funding of
Political Parties (GMCF) and the above-formulated principles, as
well as the guidelines adopted by the European Commission for
Democracy through Law in March 2001;
invite member states to adopt legislation on
financing political parties and electoral campaigns based on the
above-formulated principles reflected in Council of Europe