Estonian experience at party financing
Regulation of party financing has been a topic for discussions in Estonia for almost the whole period since independence was restored. There has been one direction to pursue: namely, to separate the activity of the parties and the parliament from the financial interests of semi-anonymous donors, and to increase the proportion of state budgetary finances in the political process.
While looking at how parties have been consolidated and strengthened – just four or five major political parties and another four or five smaller ones have survived today out of more than thirty in the mid-1990s – it may be stated that the direction followed in this process has been right. I am convinced that while going forward, Estonia as a small state should restrict the use of private and commercial financing in party politics even more. This will definitely require substantially bigger allocations to the parties from the state budget and a separate solution for the small parties that are balanced at the electoral minimum requirement threshold. Additional allocation of taxpayers’ money to the accounts of the parties and legislators is of course a sore spot and politically sensitive issue, and therefore comprehensive efforts must be taken for explaining the problem, and consensus between the parties must be pursued before each reform.
As long as private and commercial money remains in politics, however – and in the current situation there is substantially more such money than financial means from the state budget at least where campaign financing is concerned – regulation of the higher limits of the campaign costs would probably be reasonable, and also fixing a limit to which a sole donator may support a party.
Accounting of costs and revenues should probably also be improved. On this matter, there is no sense in reinventing the wheel, but it would be reasonable to keep in line with Europe. An important point to keep in mind is also the fact that over-regulation of mandatory reporting related to financing could give the reverse effect where the provided order is either not observed or where the reports are difficult to follow and do not present a good overview because of multiple, insignificant details.