The financing of political parties is a subject on which many have had a hard time.
It has long been said that the two main political parties are far too beholden to the people who give them money and support their campaign.
That in itself is fine if the donations come from the man in the street with no other interest. But the reality is that it is an open secret that in the current political system, both major political parties survive on donations from corporate interests.
Sandro Chetcuti, barely leaving the Malta Developers Association, said in an interview last year that political parties regularly harass businessmen for donations: “Sometimes it looks like harassment . Some businessmen are embarrassed by their persistence,” he told The Times of Malta in the interview.
The PN and PL have always insisted on respecting party funding laws in the way they accept funding and donations.
This week, the Electoral Commission (finally) published the PN and PL donation reports for the year 2019 – the year of the MEP elections.
Let’s take this from a numerical perspective: In total, the PN received €1,597,220 from 43,317 donors in 2019, and the PL received €1,108,723 from an unknown number of donors, who we know , exceeds 34,000 people.
And yet, while we have put in place party finance laws in order – supposedly – to increase transparency about who actually pays political parties; we don’t know of a single person who has donated money – regardless of the amount – to a political party.
A key point to remember when viewing these reports is that, in accordance with party finance laws, information and details of donors donating less than €7,000 do not need to be made public.
Lo and behold – neither the PN nor the PL said they had received donations over €7,000 – meaning the parties did not need to reveal the name of any of its donors.
Similarly, in previous years, only a handful of corporate and individual donors were reported on this basis: totaling €38,969 for the PN since 2016 and €15,000 for the HGV since the same year.
It pales in comparison to the €7.7 million donations declared by the PN since 2016, and the €5.1 million donations that the PL declared since the same year.
In both cases, a considerable amount of money goes to political parties. And the public only knows where 0.42% of that came from. So much for transparency.
It is clear that the laws on political party financing – introduced by the PL government in 2013 – need to be updated. The threshold for reporting donations should be lowered – even down to €500 – substantially so the public can finally know and understand who funds our political parties.
The problem is that it has to come from the political parties themselves – parties that seem content to keep the identity of their donors secret from the public. Their line of thinking is simple: the law allows us to do this, so why should we go beyond that… even if it means being more transparent?
There is also an argument for state funding of political parties, well hidden in all of this: if the funding comes from the state and not from individual donors, then, at least in theory, political parties are less likely to yield to the interests of their greatest number. donors.
What is certain is that political parties cannot be trusted to self-regulate. Changes need to be made to make the policy more transparent.