POLITICAL PARTIES BILL APPROVED BY PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSION
The Political Parties Bill is ready and has been approved on second reading. This was announced on Thursday (June 4) by the Parliamentary Commission on Issues of Civil Society after its last meeting. The new bill has been compiled of three proposals. The MPs from Coalition for Bulgaria Boyko Radoev and Nikolay Kamov moved a draft for an entirely new act; a completely new bill had been proposed also by Emil Koshloukov from the Novoto Vreme faction and a group of deputies. And Tosho Peikov from the Oborishte political movement insisted for passing only amendments and supplements to the currently effective law. Thus, without making a complete distinction from the Political Parties Act which is presently in force, new regulations will be introduced for the establishment, activities, financing and termination of organisations, expressing citizens' political will. It is clear that this is a compromise. According to a sociological research, a new law is necessary as it has been established that the amendments and supplements would be too many and some thoroughly different regulations from the currently effective ones should be introduced. Therefore, an entirely new law on political parties is to be drafted. This has been proposed by experts, but political will dictates something else...There are several new issues in the new bill, aimed to ensure a greater transparency in the activities of parties and in the ways of financing them. The provision, stipulating that a political party can be set up only by Bulgarian citizens with suffrage, was supplemented and now reads that people of double citizenship could participate in the establishment of a political organisation. On the other hand, a more complicated procedure for registration has been projected in order to restrict the setting up of fictitious parties. Thus, at least 500 founders shall be necessary in order to establish a party (as stipulated in the currently effective law), but 5,000 members will be needed in order to register the organisation in court. That is the reason for a new restriction, banning the participation in a party's constituent meeting of a person who is a member of another party. The MPs from the commission are adamant that if the bill is approved by the National Assembly in the proposed version, it would solve the long-time problem, regarding the premises, given to parties. The deputies voted with majority that political organisations would be deprived of the right to lease out the premises they use. According to them, the hundreds of party cafes, from which political leaders get additional money, would be eliminated in that way. Although the provision for entitling to State subsidies the parties which got at least 1.5% of the votes in the last parliamentary elections has remained in the draft, new criteria have been projected for setting the aggregate amount of the subsidy. Thus, a subsidy amounting to 1% of the minimum working salary in the country will be allocated for one vote. Until now the parties used to get BGN1 for each vote. The draft bill expands the circle of people who shall not be allowed to financially support the parties, and the ways of financing have been explicitly stated. Thus, organizers of games of chance and religious organisations shall not be allowed to make donations to parties. Enterprises with more than 5% state of municipal participation, as well as their subsidiaries, shall be banned from extending money to political organisations, too. An annual ceiling of BGN30,000 has been stipulated for a donation from a juristic person to a political party. The respective amount for a donation by a natural person is BGN5,000.The observation of these regulations will be entirely controlled by the Audit Office and the results from its financial inspections will be published on INTERNET. Parties will be deprived of the right to take part in future elections if they fail to submit their financial reports in due time, i.e. within three years. In cases of established misappropriation of funds, misuse of money, non-submission or delayed submission of a financial report to the Audit Office, or non-publication of a financial report, the respective party will be deprived of its right to a State subsidy for the next elections, either parliamentary or local. The administrative liability shall be placed to the leaders and the people responsible for the lawful raising and spending of money. The ambition of the Parliamentary Commission on Issues of Civil Society is that the National Assembly approves the draft bill by end-2004 or at least before the next parliamentary elections.