In this article we will apply the provisions of the law On Political Parties, Law 175 (I) / 2012, which refer to the distribution of state funding to political parties, in order to check if any gaps or problems derive from their implementation. This will contribute to better understanding and interpretation of these provisions. We approach the law provisions as a whole, by taking into account the fact that they form a coherent set, avoiding thus problems that may arise when interpreting a fragment of it.
In a previous article, I published my view on the state funding of political parties, pointing out that no provision of the relevant law imposes or, even, implies any need for recalculation and redistribution of state funding, either of the regular funding or the grant for election expenses (here the grant) based on the results of the relevant parliamentary elections. Instead, it provides additional funding in the form of a grant to parties that were first elected to Parliament or received more than 3% of the vote (see https://www.eklektor.org/state-funding-of-parties-and-elections/ ).
We should stress here the need to distinguish between regular funding and the grant. As we will see below, these are two different state funding schemes to political parties and their indiscriminate use, generally with the term ‘grant’ [χορηγία], is confusing.
Regarding issues that arise on the subject, it is noted that,
The merging of regular funding, which is provided annually, and the grant, which is (should be) provided only in an election year, creates a problem, but a solution is not hard to find. Their separate allocation in previous years can be our guide for a solution.
The fact that the law sets conditions for the allocation of the regular funding and the grant to new parties, which are linked to their participation in parliamentary elections, leaves gaps regarding the approval of the grant for other types of elections, such as presidential, municipal and local. The gaps must be filled to properly cover all elections.
Under the law, parliamentary parties receive regular funding to cover part of their operating expenses. A State grant is also given to parliamentary and non-parliamentary parties to cover election expenses, for parliamentary elections, or, exceptionally, for other elections. The basis for the distribution of regular funding, but also of the grant is the “vote share that the parties have secured” in the “last parliamentary elections” or “secured in the parliamentary elections for which the grant is given”. It is of critical importance to clarify the aforementioned terms in a practical way, in the light of the 2021 elections.
“Last parliamentary elections” are the elections of 2016,
“Parliamentary elections concerned by the grant” are the elections of May 2021.
In this regard, the distinction made by the law in Article 4 leaves no room to consider that after the parliamentary elections of May 2021 took place, these can also be characterized as “last parliamentary elections”. Also, for regular funding purposes we cannot consider the 2021 elections “last parliamentary elections”, while for grant purposes we can only consider them “elections concerned by the grant”!
Thus, “parliamentary parties” are the parties that were elected to Parliament in 2016. Therefore, AKEL, DISY, DIKO, EDEK, Allileggyi, ELAM, Citizens’ Alliance and the Ecologists are considered parliamentary parties, if they have registered as parties.
“Non-parliamentary parties”, for sponsorship purposes, are groups that were not in Parliament before the 2021 elections. Because, among other conditions, there is a 3% threshold to meet in order to have the right to the grant, two categories are in the group:
- Parties that received over 3% in 2016, but did not get a seat. We do not have such a case.
- Parties that secured more than 3% in 2021, and have either entered the Parliament or were left out. DIPA is in the first group, of parties that won seats in Parliament and in the Hunters Party in the second.
Regarding the latter two parties, the provision of the law is clear,
It is understood that non-parliamentary parties eligible for the grant receive the grant in proportion to the vote share they had secured in the last parliamentary elections or secured in the parliamentary elections for which the grant is given and this is given before or after the parliamentary elections concerned by the grant, respectively:
That is, it states that
- A non-parliamentary party eligible for the grant receives the grant based on the results of the last parliamentary elections (ie in 2016)
- A non-parliamentary party eligible for the grant receives the grant based on the results of the elections to which the grant relates (ie in 2021).
When do they receive the grant? This is indicated by the term “respectively” at the end of the provision. That is, if the party belongs to case 1, if it had secured 3% in 2016, it should have received the grant before the parliamentary elections of 2021. We do not have such a case.
If the party belongs to case 2, that is, if it received more than 3% in the parliamentary elections of 2021, it will receive the grant “after their holding”, after May 2021. Clearly, this group includes DIPA and the Hunters’ Party, as they both secured more than 3% in the 2021 elections.
The next note in the law concerns exactly group 2, and the law defines both the source of funding and its amount:
“It is further understood that non-parliamentary parties falling under the second indent of subparagraph (iv) of this paragraph shall receive such an amount as grant, calculated as a percentage of the total amount of the grant allocated to the other parties, which are entitled to receive grant in accordance with the provisions of this Law before the parliamentary elections; this amount is in addition to the total amount of sponsorship initially provided for the other parties. ”
The provision leaves no doubt: Parties that were not in parliament before May 2021 and secured more than 3% in the 2021 elections, whether they entered the Parliament or not, are eligible for a grant after the election. The funds come from a supplementary budget and this is calculated on their percentage, and it is additional to the 100% given to the parliamentary parties (and non-parliamentary – which did not exist!) before the 2021 elections.
[Based on the above provision, if the Hunters’ Party claims the 2026 elections, if it applies and if it has the number of candidates required by law, it will receive a grant before the elections and this will be part of the grant that the parliamentary parties will receive].
The interpretation of the law and definitions in the law undoubtedly lead to the conclusion that the separation of elections can only be between the 2016 elections (last parliamentary elections) and the 2021 elections (elections concerned by the grant). It is not possible to refer to the results and vote share of the parties by confusing the two elections. No election can be “The last election” and at the same time “the election concerned by the grant”!
The distinction of parties into parliamentary and non-parliamentary is also in line with the same logic, which is clearly stated in the definitions.
“Parliamentary party” means a political party having in its ranks at least one Member of Parliament whom it has elected in the last parliamentary elections;
Since the “last parliamentary elections” are the 2016 elections, DIPA is not a parliamentary party, for the purposes of the relevant provisions of the law and the funding of 2021, even though it entered the Parliament in May 2021. There is no reasonable margin of interpretation on the basis of which, and for purposes of the allocation of the grant, a party that first entered Parliament in 2021, can be classified as “parliamentary” for the funding of 2021. We cannot consider it both a “non-parliamentary”, but also a “parliamentary” party for the funding of 2021. Yes, in the State funding of 2022, DIPA will be considered a parliamentary party, because the elections of 2021 will then be “the last parliamentary elections”, since 2022 will not be an election year.
In the same line of interpretation, parties that failed to win seats in the election of May 2021 are considered as “parliamentary parties” for the purposes of the 2021 grant and regular funding.
Here are some arguments:
- The state sponsorship was given on the basis of the 2016 election vote share.
- The grant was given for the election of 2021, which took place, the expenses were made and nowhere in the law the grant or the size of its amount are linked to an electoral success and re-election.
- Since the grant was given for the specific campaign, there is no question of reimbursing any part of the grant. No provision, no logic, no formula asks this.
[In fact, the legislator, recognizing the importance for democracy of the representation of the broader possible part of the voters, had provided in the law On Political Parties Law 20 (I) / 2011 (which was replaced by law 175 (I) / 2012) the following: A party that was in parliament in the last elections (ex. 2016) and lost its presence in parliament in the elections concerned by the grant (ex. 2021), is entitled to a grant in the next elections.]
The above interpretation of the provisions of the law for the distribution of the grant, does not seem to face or cause any problems or leave gaps regarding their implementation. The merge of the regular funding and the grant is not an insurmountable obstacle for the implementation of the law. Given that in previous years we knew that about 2.5 million euro was the grant and about 4.0 million the regular funding, this could be a guide to resolving the relevant issues.
The provisions on regular funding do not foresee that parties that enter the Parliament for the first time receive any funds to meet their operational needs for the period after the elections until the end of the year. This gap must be filled. In the same way that a provision is made for allocating the grant to cover electoral expenses, it is necessary to extend this to operating expenses, through regular funding.
There is no provision in the law on the basis of which to adjust the regular funding in the year of elections, in accordance with the results. This is logical, there is no question of recalculating funding since the parties that failed to get re-elected continue to operate after the parliamentary elections and funding is for the financial year, not only for part of it. Let us not forget that the basis of the financing is the last parliamentary elections, i.e. 2016. Besides this, during the year of the parliamentary elections, local self-government elections are also held, the municipal and the community ones, which imply that parties will make expenses. Regular funding to parties that failed to enter the parliament will be terminated the year that follows elections.
In summary, the interpretation of the law clearly provides for giving grants to non-parliamentary parties, once they secure more than 3% in the last parliamentary elections or in the elections for which the grant is given. DIPA and the Hunters’ Party are concerned here. The grant should be approved through a supplementary budget.
There is no question of revising and reallocating the sums that parties have received before the elections.
Regarding the regular funding, for operating expenses, parties that enter the parliament for the first time the law provides no funds for the period after their election. Also, no provision exists in the law that parties that suffered losses should refund any part of the funding or those that won votes should see an increase, in accordance with the vote share of the parties in 2021. Any other interpretation is in accordance neither with the law, nor with the letter or in its spirit.
However, it would be right and fair to provide by law the granting of regular funding to parties that received more than 3% and to new entrants to the Parliament.
Με βάση τα πιο πάνω, οι θέσεις της κυβέρνησης, βασισμένες σε γνωμάτευση της νομικής υπηρεσίας, για επαναϋπολογισμό της τακτικής χρηματοδότησης, θεμελιώνονται σε θέση που δεν συνάδει με το νόμο. Αποσπασματική ερμηνεία του νόμου, όπως φαίνεται να έγινε από τη νομική υπηρεσία, σαφώς οδηγεί σε λανθασμένες ερμηνείας και συμπεράσματα. Δημιουργεί αχρείαστη αναστάτωση και, προπάντων, μειώνει την αξιοπιστία και προσήλωση σε θεσμούς.
Our analysis shows that the government position, founded on an opinion by the Legal Service of the Republic, for a recalculation of the regular funding, is based on a view that is not in accordance with the law. A fragmentary interpretation of the law, as it appears that is the case with the opinion of the Legal Service, clearly leads to faulty interpretation and conclusions. This causes unnecessary trouble and, more importantly, it damages the credibility of institutions.