Political financing could be reformed

The government is one step closer to passing a new party subsidisation law.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Media Secretary Josef Ostermayer – who represents his party in the talks with the opposition – expressed confidence regarding presenting the amendment in parliament in around two weeks’ time.

SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann recently underlined that he wanted the new regulation to come into effect as of 1 July. People’s Party (ÖVP) whip Karlheinz Kopf said after yesterday’s (Tues) debate with the opposition that this target was “immensely ambitious”. Kopf added that it was possible to reach an agreement shortly nevertheless.

SPÖ and the conservative ÖVP intend to lower the limit which ensures donations’ transparency from 7,260 to 5,000 Euros. The Greens demand a lower sum – and want the government to abstain from including the reform of the system of public subsidies for political groups in the law.

The SPÖ-ÖVP government plans to set 5,000 Euros as limit for donations from individuals and enterprises to parties. The coalition’s draft bill would mean that voters must be informed about who supported the parties with an amount of 5,000 Euros or more. The discussions of government officials and members of the parliamentary opposition will be continued next week.

Ostermayer revealed yesterday that the government reached an agreement with the opposition concerning the subsidisation of political parties by the state. He said that, regardless whether the issue will be part of the currently discussed draft bill, all parliament factions were of the opinion that Austrian parties must not receive more money from the state than they were getting at the moment.

SPÖ and ÖVP are depending on a two-third majority in parliament in this regard since the planned amendments affect the constitution. This means that at least one of the three opposition factions must give the thumbs up to the envisaged change of regulations.

Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) negotiator Stefan Petzner told radio Ö1 after yesterday’s meeting that “there is a solution to everything in life – even to complex issues like the transparency draft bill”. Several former top-tier representatives of his party are, according to reports and revelations by the parliament’s anti-corruption committee, deeply entangled into cases of abuse of office and bribe.

The Freedom Party (FPÖ), the BZÖ’s main right-wing rival, is affected by the ongoing investigations by prosecutors too due to ex-ministers’ disputed connections with lobbyists and a wide network of businesspeople.

A recent Karmasin poll shows that 33 per cent of Austrians consider the FPÖ as “strongly hit by cases of corruption”. Around 39 per cent described the party as “rather strongly affected” while only three per cent said there was no impact on the FPÖ at all. The party headed by Heinz-Christian Strache has, thanks to its populist anti-European Union (EU) course, excellent chances to win next year’s federal election nevertheless.