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Changes of the Law on Financing Political Activities

Transparency Serbia (official chapter of Transparency International) finds it useful that draft of amendments to the Law on Financing Political Activities regulates duty of Anticorruption Agency to proceed by complaints during the election campaign in five days deadline, to determine whether there have been violations of regulations and to publish this decision. However, current draft does not deal with other problems recognized by domestic public and international organizations, although strategic acts planned comprehensive changes of the Law first in 2014, and then in 2016. Draft amendments to the Law, do not resolve even some problems identified by ODIHR after parliamentary elections in 2016 and 2017, therefore they should be significantly complemented.

When it comes to control of financing of the election campaign, duties of the Agency during the verification phase of the reports on financing of campaign in the line of duty, what should bethe content of the report on control, deadline for finalizing the report and initiated procedures against perpetrators,still remain unregulated. Efficiency of the control of financing of the campaign and transparency of sources of financing will further on complicate possibility to pay for the campaign expenses afterwards. Contrary to the recommendations of ODIHR, there is still no limitation of the expenses of the election campaign, neither is the transparency of data about the sources of financing during the campaign, provided.

Draft does not plan changes in regards to budget allocations for the campaign that are currently set in such a way that favors largest parliamentary parties. Namely, just 20% of that money is divided equally to the participants of the elections, which is insufficient for their presentation to the voters, especially in local elections. Furthermore, since 2014,covering of election campaign expenses with budgetary assets received by parliamentary parties for other purposes (regular work)is allowed, which increases inequality of the participants and provides an impetus to conducting of expensive campaigns at the expense of the citizens.

During the dialogue on election conditions, Transparency Serbia proposed numerous amendments that would enable more efficient control (e. g. criteria for determining „non-market benefits“), as well as more precise definition of the Criminal Act from the article 38. para. 1. of the Law. It is important to provide legal potential for conducting special evidence actions during the investigations on illegal financing of campaigns, as it is the case with other acts of corruption.

Current draft specifies rules on using of public resources for the purpose of election campaign (e. g. renting of premises of the public enterprises and institutions). However, neither this, nor other changes of the Law that were announced by the Government, do not resolve problem of „officials’ campaign“ – using of opportunities for additional media promotion of current officials through performing of alleged regular activities during the campaign (e. g. visits toschools, hospitals, construction sites, distribution of social aid etc). Thus, promotion, whose value is far greater than any of the paid add, is secured in practice.

Transparency indicates that regulating of advertising of authority organs, that is often used for buying of political influence in media is also very important for preventing of abuses. Having in mind that expenses of advertising on television, represent the biggest expenditure of the election campaigns in Serbia, changes of regulations should specify duty of Regulatory Body for Electronic Media to supervise whether all election participants were provided with equal conditions of advertising and prohibit certain harmful practices (e. g. broadcasting of complete party rallies).

Given all of the above, public debate organized by the Ministry of Finances on this draft, as well as announced dialogue with the assistance of representatives of the EuropeanParliament, should be used to resolve all problems identified so far, by changing the Law on Financing of Political Activities and other regulations, and not to delay complete reform for the period after the parliamentary elections.

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