State-funded parties will form analytical centers, and will be able to use the money to examine public opinion for their own purposes, as well as to conduct discussions and debates. Such benefits will be used by the four largest parties (two from the Macedonian and two from the Albanian political bloc) and are part of the Law on Financing Parties that was passed on Monday at the leaders’ meeting in the Club of Representatives in Skopje. It is one of the biggest novelties of the agreement between party leaders Zoran Zaev, Hristijan Mickoski, Ali Ahmeti and Bilal Kasami, and should be implemented in the Parliament as a precondition for a successful referendum on the name agreement with Greece.
According to the information, the return of the money and the payment of 15 denars from the state budget for each won vote in the elections is back. Translated into numbers, if VMRO-DPMNE or SDSM earn 400,000 votes in the next elections (parliamentary or local), then their bank account will get a transfer of six million denars or about 100,000 euros. In smaller parties, the sum is much lower, but for both it also means providing financial survival in the years without elections.
Small percentages of the annual budget of the state, as well as from the budgets of the municipalities and the City of Skopje are allocated for financing of political parties. In total, these funds amount to less than three million euros. These funds are allocated periodically (every three, four, six months or once a year), depending on the liquidity. Thirty percent is distributed equally for all parties that have won at least one percent of the votes received at the last local or parliamentary elections. The remaining seventy percent is divided among political parties in proportion to the number of their elected representatives in the Assembly or municipal councils. The Ministry of Finance calculates the amount for each political party based on the information sent by the State Election Commission regarding their winning number of votes and seats in the last election.
Although the public speculated that with the agreement reached between the leaders that the state will fully take over the financing of the parties, this is not true. In addition to the stated ways to get money from the budget, political entities will continue to be able to receive private funds in the form of membership fees, donations, property etc.
Party analytical-research centers at the expense of the state is an old idea, an invention of the last government. The smaller political entities were against this idea then, and are still against now. They think that the state favors the big political parties in yet another way. On the other hand, they say, Macedonia is not a rich country to undertake additional obligations that are a burden to the budget.
Goran Milevski, president of the Liberal Democratic Party, reacts to this legal solution and announces a legal battle.
“We have draft amendments to the Law on financing parties that will be additionally presented together with DOM. The funding of research centers is disputed, which is now the privilege of only four major parties. We demand that it be amended and that the funding be in accordance with the number of MPs of all political parties, and not only the largest ones, because with this they receive additional funds from the budget, while we, the remaining parties are put in an unequal position. This is contrary to the Constitution,” says Milevski for Nezavisen/Independent newspaper.
In the past few days, during negotiations between leaders, information circulated throughout the public that VMRO-DPMNE also demanded money, instead of prison sentences for misusing election campaign funds. Although initially it seems that the Law on Party Financing is an extremely important issue of financial gain, it is a much more important battle for amending articles 353 and 165-a, which treat acts of abuse of official position and authorization and abuse of funds for financing election campaigns.
With the possible acceptance of these draft amendments, the cases conducted by the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office for illegal financing of the parties will be outdated or will mean probation for the accused. In addition, they demanded for fines, rather than prison sentences for unlawful financing of election campaigns.
The latest information indicates that these points are no longer part of the talks between Zaev and Mickoski. The Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that they did not want to discuss the change of articles 353 and other articles in the Criminal Code, and will not be discussed until such changes touch in any case of the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Zaev pointed out that if a change in one article of the Criminal Code completely or partially destroys the case of the SPO, it is a direct or indirect amnesty.
“Neither Mickoski nor Zaev have that right, because there must be a rule of law. If anyone even thinks of this, first the citizens will give up on us, and then the member-states will block us in the integration process,“ the Prime Minister pointed out, adding that the opposition had withdrawn these requests on the last day of the discussion of the leaders’ meeting.