Was it stupidity or corruption that led the Hungarian parliament to adopt the new campaign finance law earlier this year? According to Political Capital and Transparency International Hungary, Law LXXXVII of 2013 allows hundreds of millions of forints in government campaign funds to be paid in cash to political parties running as few as 27 individual candidates in national parliamentary elections. Furthermore, parties are not required to account for this money. Nor are they required to repay it even if no one votes for that party’s national list.
In a statement sent to Hungarian News Agency MTI on Tuesday, Political Capital warns that the new campaign finance law makes it much easier for a political party to receive HUF 100 million (USD 465,000) in campaign funds from the government by running as few as 27 individual candidates in Hungary’s 106 electoral districts. As this requires the collection of as few as 13,500 signatures, the new law raises the specter of new political parties being formed merely for the sake of qualifying for government campaign funds.
According to Political Capital political parties succeeding in running candidates in all 106 electoral districts are entitled to receive HUF 597 million (USD 2.8 million) worth of campaign funds from the government. Whereas the law stipulates that campaign funds be provided individual candidates in the form of bank cards, in the case of parties running national lists it is to be paid out in cash. Furthermore, whereas individual candidates must account for funds received and even repay them if they fail to get at least 2% of the vote in their district, parties running national lists need neither account for campaign funds received nor repay any of this money even if they fail to get so much as a single vote.
Political Capital recommends modifying the law so that parties would be subject to the same disclosure requirements as individual candidates. It further recommends that campaign funds be paid by bank wire instead of direct cash payments and that parties whose national lists do not receive at least 1% of the popular vote be required to repay it.
Only in this way can the government prevent several billion forints in taxpayer money being paid out in cash to political parties set up solely for the purpose of obtaining government campaign funds.
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