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Monitoring Report on the electoral campaign financing

Expert Forum has released the first monitoring report on the electoral campaign financing for the local elections to be held on 27 September 2020. The report aims to draw some conclusions in regard to the financing of the electoral campaigns, based on the analysis of electoral legislation related to political financing, after the investigation of data published by the Permanent Electoral Authority and discussions with representatives of political parties.

Expert Forum did not deploy field observers for this analysis. A final report will be published after the election date, when the political parties will provide the information required by the public law. The recommendations included in this report are addressed to political parties, the Permanent Electoral Authority and other institutions with legislative initiative.

Moreover, EFOR has developed a website on which the data regarding the contributions to the electoral campaign provided by the Permanent Electoral Authority can be consulted. The platform will be updated as more data become available. You can find more details here.

Conclusions

  • By September 4, the electoral competitors declared financial contributions of 46.823.539,45 lei out of which the amount of 1,462,082.47 lei was reported by independent candidates. Moreover, 2,8 millions represent transfers to the central accounts of the parties, made by ALDE (76%) and USR (24%)
  • By September 11, the electoral competitors declared contributions of 90,331,231.16 lei, of which the amount of 2,070,060.47 lei was reported by independents. Almost 6.8 million lei represent transfers from party accounts.
  • The data set published by the Permanent Electoral Authority reflects in a comprehensive manner the contributions of candidates and parties. However, data quality could be improved to facilitate the external analysis
  • Although electoral competitors cannot receive contributions or proceed with expenditure without declaring the funds to the PEA (third party contributions are not allowed, contrary to international standards), no interim reports are published on these transactions, in spite of  international recommendations
  • The pre-campaign period does not have enough regulations and the real campaign has practically moved before August 28. In the pre-campaign period, there are no specific rules regarding the marking of the promotional materials or instructions related to reporting.
  • EFOR asked the parties to publish their pre-campaign expenses. The only party that responded was PRO-Romania and the amount used from the subsidies for the promotion of the party and candidates between July and August 2020 was 776.612,29 lei. This amount was used for outdoor/street promotion (promotional panels) and LED displays in several counties in Romania
  • There are multiple ambiguities in the electoral and political funding law, linked, among other things, to the limits of donations for electoral campaigns, online donations or the rules for spending campaign amounts on audio-visual means. A specific ambiguity of these elections, which was not interpreted by the Central Electoral Bureau, concerns the number of posters that can be used for each electoral panel, as the law allows only one poster even if a competitor can have candidates for several positions. Furthermore, in view of the situation created by COVID-19, it would also have been useful to have allocated more funds to the online campaign (up to 30%) compared to the print campaign (up to 50%).
  • Some electoral competitors have encountered difficulties such as opening accounts bank or finding financial trustees (mandatari financiari)
  • Independent candidates and certain political parties remain at a disadvantage as the political parties receiving subsidies can use the funds for the election campaign. The law was amended shortly before the elections to allow for this derogation, contrary to international standards
  • The abuse of public resources can affect the electoral process, especially in the light of public office candidates using public funds or other means to promote themselves politically. Measures to sanction and deter such infringements remain rather limited.
  • In August political parties and affiliated persons have spent about 3 million lei for Facebook promotion (via FB Ads). Despite the fact that during the campaign competitors have to mark propaganda materials, including those used online, EFOR has found many cases – from several political parties -, across the country, where the law was not properly applied. Online promotion remains under-regulated and difficult to control by external observers and authorities
  • The analysis of the data on contributions shows that some competitors have reported already more funds than the limitations allowed by law (examples in the report)
  • The campaign for the local elections in 2020 is rather specific as it will overlay the start of the support signature raising process for the parliamentary elections. In this respect, the transparency and integrity of the process may be affected due to the rather blurry delimitation of use of propaganda materials.

Read the full report here (Romanian online)

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Statistics

Facebook expenditure, August 2020

Statistics regarding the contributions of political parties (September 11)

  • by September 11, the electoral competitors declared contributions of 90,331,231.16 million lei, of which the amount of 2,070,060.47 was reported by independents. Almost 6.8 million lei represent transfers from party accounts.
    * certain figures were corrected by EFOR, as they were obvious errors. The tables below reflect the updated data

Statistics regarding the contributions of political parties (September 4)

Top 10 contributors – county councils / mayors / local councils

Loans over 50.000 lei

Top 10 contributors – independent candidates

 

Contributors that exceeded the legal limits for contributions

        

Supported by a project funded by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), implemented by Expert Forum in partnership with CEELI Institute – Central and Eastern European Law Initiative and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).


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