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15. 05. 12. - 16:20

Transparency package 'doomed to fail'

Herbert Bösch has harshly criticised the government over a lack of transparency regarding party finances.

Referring to the coalition’s attempt to set up stricter regulations, the former Social Democratic (SPÖ) European Parliament member (MEP) said: "We will become witnesses of how this will all fail."

The SPÖ and its coalition partner, the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP), want to lower the limit for when the spender of donations to political movements must be declared from 7,000 to 5,000 Euros. Bösch told the Kurier he considered this sum as too high. He branded the government’s step as "adventurous".

Several anti-corruption experts have called for a lower level before. An amount of 1,000 Euros has been identified as a reasonable sum. But the accord between SPÖ and ÖVP means that the level for more information will soon be 5,000 Euros.

Bösch – who cooperates with ex-Greens MEP Johannes Voggenhuber and former ÖVP Vice Chancellor about Mein Österreich (My Austria), an online movement for a democratic reform – warned: "The whole (political) building is shaking."

Speaking to the Kurier, the former MEP said he was concerned about the condition of democracy in Austria due to decreasing election participation records. "It will not be about (supporting the SPÖ or the ÖVP) in the end. There will be people who question the whole system."

Bösch said the parties’ coffers must become fully transparent to improve the situation. His suggestions follow controversial revelations by an anti-corruption commission consisting of parliament members (MPs). The MPs’ investigations and interviews indicate that some of the most powerful decision-makers in Austria of the past decade might have been entangled to illicit business operations masterminded by lobbyists and companies close to the state.

Mein Österreich wants to shift political power from the provinces to the state. The initiative – which has been endorsed by actors, singers, authors and thousands of citizens – also calls for a direct ballot of half of the parliament’s delegates. Furthermore, the movement wants to get rid of the Bundesrat council. The political institution – which can postpone but not avoid amendments – is widely seen as ineffective and overly expensive.

SPÖ and ÖVP are fighting to remain strong despite the growing frustration among voters due to the increasing number of reports about possible abuse of office and fraud by ex-ministers and other influential former lawmakers.

The Pirate Party (PPÖ) sent a warning sign to the five factions currently represented in the federal parliament by bagging 3.8 per cent in last month’s Innsbruck city hall election. Now the PPÖ sets sails for next year’s federal vote which, according to latest surveys, is likely to confront both coalition partners with significant losses.

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