Guidelines on the Financing of Political Parties
Adopted by the Commission at its 46 th Plenary Meeting, (Venice , 9-10 March 2001)
The Venice Commission:
Being engaged in the promotion of fundamental principles of democracy, of the rule of law and the protection of human rights, and in the context of improving democratic security for all;
Noting with concern problems relating to the illicit financing of political parties recently uncovered in a number of Council of Europe member states;
Taking into account the essential role of political parties within democracy and considering that freedom of association, including that of political association, is a fundamental freedom protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and is one of the cornerstones of genuine democracy, such as that envisaged by the Statute of the Council of Europe;
Paying particular attention to state practice in the area of financing of political parties;
Recognising the need to further promote standards in this area on the basis of the values of European legal heritage;
Has adopted the following guidelines:
1 For the purpose of these guidelines, a political party is an association of persons one of the aims of which is to participate in the management of public affairs by the presentation of candidates to free and democratic elections.
2 Such political parties may seek out and receive funds by means of public or private financing.
A. Regular Financing
a. Public Financing
3 Public financing must be aimed at each party represented in Parliament.
4 In order, however, to ensure the equality of opportunities for the different political forces, public financing could also be extended to political bodies representing a significant section of the electoral body and presenting candidates for election. The level of financing could be fixed by legislator on a periodic basis, according to objective criteria.
Tax exemptions can be granted for operations strictly connected to the parties' political activity.
5 The financing of political parties through public funds should be on condition that the accounts of political parties shall be subject to control by specific public organs (for example by a Court of Audit). States shall promote a policy of financial transparency of political parties that benefit from public financing.
b. Private Financing
6 Political parties may receive private financial donations. Donations from foreign States or enterprises must however be prohibited. This prohibition should not prevent financial donations from nationals living abroad.
Other limitations may also be envisaged. Such may consist notably of:
a. a maximum level for each contribution;
b. a prohibition of contributions from enterprises of an industrial, or commercial nature or from religious organisations;
c. prior control of contributions by members of parties who wish to stand as candidates in elections by public organs specialised in electoral matters.
7 The transparency of private financing of each party should be guaranteed. In achieving this aim, each party should make public each year the annual accounts of the previous year, which should incorporate a list of all donations other than membership fees. All donations exceeding an amount fixed by the legislator must be recorded and made public.
B. Electoral Campaigns
8 In order to ensure equality of opportunities for the different political forces, electoral campaign expenses shall be limited to a ceiling, appropriate to the situation in the country and fixed in proportion to the number of voters concerned.
9 The State should participate in campaign expenses through funding equal to a certain percentage of the above ceiling or proportional to the number of votes obtained. This contribution may however be refused to parties who do not reach a certain threshold of votes.
10 Private contributions can be made for campaign expenses, but the total amount of such contributions should not exceed the stated ceiling. Contributions from foreign States or enterprises must be prohibited. This prohibition should not prevent financial contributions from nationals living abroad.
Other limitations may also be envisaged. Such may consist notably of a prohibition of contributions from enterprises of an industrial or commercial nature or religious organisations.
11 Electoral campaign accounts will be submitted to the organ charged with supervising election procedures, for example, an election committee, within a reasonable time limit after the elections.
12 The transparency of electoral expenses should be achieved through the publication of campaign accounts.
C. Control and sanctions
13 Any irregularity in the financing of a political party shall entail sanctions proportionate to the severity of the offence that may consist of the loss of all or part of public financing for the following year.
14 Any irregularity in the financing of an electoral campaign shall entail, for the party or candidate at fault, sanctions proportionate to the severity of the offence that may consist of the loss or the total or partial reimbursement of the public contribution, the payment of a fine or another financial sanction or the annulment of the election.
15 The above-mentioned rules including the imposition of sanctions shall be enforced by the election judge (constitutional or other) in accordance with the law.