Financing of political parties seems to be (or is) opaque
On 26 November, Riigikogu Toimetised assembled a panel of politicians and experts to discuss the topic of political party financing in Estonia.
The politicians were represented in the conversation circle by members of the Riigikogu Väino Linde (Reform Party), Kadri Must (Centre Party) and Urmas Reinsalu (Pro Patria and Res Publica Union), while the experts consisted of constitutional law scholar Ülle Madise (Tallinn University of Technology), political science scholar Tõnis Saarts (Tallinn University) and journalist Tarmu Tammerk (Transparency International-Estonia). RiTo editor-in-chief Helle Ruusing asked questions and made a selection of the comments from discussion. The participants in the conversation circle agreed that no democratic state governed by the rule of law had as yet managed to come up with the ideal party financing system. The same can be said about the system for supervision of financing. Estonia´s political parties currently receive money from three sources – the state budget, private donations and political party membership dues. There is currently debate in political circles as to whether financing from the state budget should be increased and funding from private sources simultaneously decreased. One camp is in favour of the amendment, while another contingent does not feel it is reasonable. Another possible restriction is setting some sort of upper limit to campaign spending, so that the advertising volumes would not exceed the limits of reason. In the end, one idea that seemed to resonate was that the current system of financing parties is not a bad one, or open to corruption; rather it treats all parties equally. The rules are the same for everyone. Parties are required to submit four types of reports on income and expenditures. At the same time, the ideal is by definition slightly beyond our reach and there must be continual progress toward it. There must be continuous thought devoted to what kinds of rules for financing parties are reasonable and how to ensure that they are obeyed. It must be said that politicians have the desire to discuss constructively the system for financing parties and the related supervisory system.