POLITICAL PARTIES' ACT ON FOCUS
The first law that the Parliament is going to discuss next week is the one for the political parties, Chairman of the National Assembly, Georgi Pirinski, said on September 24. This time the amendment is said to be aimed at achieving more transparency of the political parties' financial matters and publicity for the donations that parties get. President Parvanov put it even more fundamentally having repeatedly pointed out that this regulation should be amended and serve as a basis for an overall change in the country's political system.
We need not go into details as to how such a subject may be radically changed. In order to achieve this, we would need radically new politicians, but because the old ones do not give signs of leaving the political scene, we will simply have to put up with just another editing of the text.
Back in January President Parvanov insisted on a law that would ban business structures from donating to parties, increased state subsidy for political formations and a public register for the donors; while a party that does not have structures in two thirds of the country's municipalities and fails to get at least 1% of the votes at two consecutive elections will be automatically erased from the register.
Representatives of both the Bulgarian Socialist Party, and the Simeon II National Movement seem to have adopted this idea since in the bills submitted by the two parties there is no option for donations from businesses. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms of Ahmed Dogan don't object expressly. The three parties of the ruling coalition are unanimous that physical persons should not be limited in their enthusiasm to give, but they differ in their opinions as to how much a person could give to a party. Tsarists insist on a limit of BGN100, but socialist are receptive to a threshold of BGN30,000. The state subsidy in the vision of the Simeon II National Movement is 5% of the minimum monthly wage in the country per vote, while socialists offer the sum to be equal to 6 per cent. The subsidy at present is 2 per cent.
In the autumn of 2006, MPs made amendments to the Political Parties Act that were very much in favour of the parliamentary presented parties. Until then, the state had to pay BGN5MN to the political formations in the Parliament per year, but MPs fixed the sum to BGN10MN (which meant that the state subsidy was increased from 1% to 2% of the minimum monthly wage) This means that if the text gets changed again the eight parliamentary presented parties (including the newly formed Bulgarian New Democracy) will get a total of BGN25MN (if the proposal of the Simeon II National Movement passes) and the sum may even go as high as BGN30MN (in case MPs prefer the version of the socialist party.)
MPs from the ruling coalition will make every effort to set the regulation so at to allow every party that has got at least 1% of the votes to receive EUR2 per vote. That was allegedly the situation in the European Union.
In 2006 the threshold of BGN10,000 per donation per individual a year was cancelled. Since then, non-legal entities may donate more than BGN30,000 if they wish. MPs may ban corporate donations, but if they allow physical persons to give between BGN20,000 and BGN30,000, businessmen who are interested in donating may easily become private donors.
It is also interesting whether the text on public procurement procedures will gain more radical formulation. Two years ago it was said that parties should not get funding from candidates and participants in public procurement procedures that have not been finished and the period of appeal has not expired. However, this was not put into practice. Representatives of the Supreme Audit Office repeatedly voice concern that such kind of limitation should be introduced, but MPs didn't seem to have heard them. However, the Supreme Audit Office will have no chance of telling exactly which companies are engaged in a procedure under the Public Procurement Act. It will be even more difficult if the head of such a company decides to donate privately - because there will be no way to stop or sanction him.
However, neither the bill proposed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party nor that of the Simeon II National Movement stated how the practice of giving sums below the table will be stopped. The two parties, together with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms unanimously keep silence on this topic.
The socialists and the tsarists may have an argument about the threshold for erasing small parties from the register. Representatives of the Simeon II National Movement will insist on 0.5%, but the socialists, as well as the President, would rather prefer a one-percent barrier. However, there is a problem for parties going to elections in coalitions with other parties, because the individual votes a party gets will thus get very difficult to calculate.