The report includes various statistics not found in the summary below, including lists of
individuals or companies who contributed to the parties’ finances as well as statistics regarding beneficiaries of contracts from political parties.
In order to better understand the Romanian legislation please see #baniipartidelor series: information campaign about political financing in Romania. The campaign aims to explain how political parties are funded, how election campaigns are conducted, which institutions perform oversight, how transparency is ensured and what are the main issues related to money in politics.
In 2022, party revenues and expenses were similar to those of the previous year and lower than in electoral years. Fiscal data available for 93 parties indicate total revenues of 276.7 million lei, respectively expenditure of 239.7 million lei. Of these, 27 parties reported zero income. The top 10 parties in terms of revenue cover over 99% of the party revenue recorded in 2022, which reflects that there are few parties that have an activity from which they can fund activities outside the election campaign. The data shows that parliamentary parties have collected and spent more money than in 2021. The parties also put money aside from subsidies, most likely in view of the 2024 election year. The National Liberal Party (PNL) has declared advance revenues (potentially from subsidies) of 70 million, (Save Romania Union) USR of 47 million, (Alliance for the Union of Romanians) AUR of 38 million, and the Social Democrat Party (PSD) of 10 million lei.
Left: Intervals for political parties declaring income (thousands lei) / Right: Income and expenditure 2018-2022
On the other hand, the greatest share of income continues to come from subsidies, with 256 million lei allocated in 2022 and 258 million lei in 2023. While parties do not spend all their funds in 2022 they spent more than in 2021 – 72% of what was received. Expenditure on political advertising has consistently increased and continue to be the largest share proportionally. Furthermore, the negative impact of these contracts on media independence is becoming increasingly obvious.
In terms of staff, 79 parties declared zero employees to the Minister of Finance. Most of them were declared by UDMR (151), PSD (114), and USR (97). Liberals have declared 30 employees, whereas AUR has not recorded any employees for the third year in a row.
The legislative framework did not change in 2022, but the Permanent Electoral Authority submitted a proposal to amend Law 334/2006 at the end of 2022, which was subject to public debate in November. The project was submitted to the Parliament by PSD in April 2023, in the absence of support from the Government. Although the project brings improvements in terms of transparency, it does not completely solve the problem of transparency of the final beneficiary of funds for mass media contracts, reduces transparency during election campaigns, and increases the contributions that political parties can make to the campaign.
Compliance with transparency regulations
The number of parties that published the mandatory information (donations, contributions, loans, other revenues etc) in the Official Gazette increased slightly compared to 2021, to 59. Revenue and expenditure reports (RVC) are submitted to the PEA by the end of April and published on the website www.finantarepartide.ro at the earliest convenience. The correctness of the information is not verified at this point, but during the annual oversight missions of the PEA. At the time of publication of this report 116 RVCs were published on the website. Despite the regulations that establish the information that is published, the reports remain very diverse both in terms of information and file formats. The biggest differences are the granularity of the data that is published. PSD discloses just a summary of income and costs, whereas PNL, PMP, Pro Romania, and AUR reveal detailed data on income and expenses.
Parties that published in the Official Gazzette
Access to information and open data
Although the www.finantarepartide.ro portal has significantly contributed to increasing transparency by centralising data, the publication of reports in similar formats can be improved. Moreover, lists of expenses from subsidies (by categories) that are published by political parties monthly are still uploaded in .pdf format. Also, a significant number of RVCs are only available in scanned .pdf format (see examples below), which significantly reduces data processing capacity. The Fiscal Register Application could be extended to allow all reporting to be done through a single instrument, allowing data exports in similar formats.
EFOR requested information from the Permanent Electoral Authority on how decisions were taken to request for additional subsidies, as well as the legal basis, but the requested information was not provided. EFOR took the PEA to court and won in the first instance, while the deadline for the second instance was set for June.
In terms of access to the PEA’s oversight reports, the format remains limited and does not allow for a full comprehension of the findings and conclusions, with each report typically being one page long. Under the new bill, the content of the reports would be expanded.
In 2022, 29 million lei were collected from membership fees. The income of PSD increased from 7.8 to 9.4 million lei, while for PNL decreased from 10 million lei to 8.5 million lei. USR also recorded a decrease in membership fees of 1.2 million lei, to 3.3 million lei. AUR, on the other hand, recorded a significant increase from 879 thousand lei to 2.9 million lei.
Fees above 10 salaries (30.000 lei) were relatively low, reaching a total of 488 thousand lei and were recorded for six parties. There are significant differences between the success of local organisations in raising money. For PNL, the most active branches were Bihor, Alba and Teleorman, while the least funds were raised in Harghita, Ilfov, Covasna and Timiș. For PSD, the most fees was collected in Argeș, Dâmbovița and Hunedoara, in contrast to Harghita and Sector 3, while no money was collected in Covasna. USR raised the most money from the diaspora.
Membership fees per county organization (lei)
The highest membership fees were paid to PNL by MP Muraru Iulian Alexandru (33,000 lei), to PSD by MEP Avram Carmen Gabriela (44,395.9 lei), and in the case of PUSL Bugean Dana, Iordache Lorena and Vasile Laurentiu-Andrei contributed 60,000 lei each. The only contribution above the equivalent of 10 salaries to USR is that of MEP Vlad Botoș (35,000 lei). The highest contribution to AUR was registered by MEP Muncaciu Sorin Titus (18100 lei). At the UDMR the highest contribution of 22,000 lei was paid by MP Kolcsar Anquetil-Karoly (Mures).
As for the fees paid by party leaders, in the case of PSD we do not have this information, as detailed data are not published. Prime Minister Nicolae-Ionel Ciucă paid 6,600 lei, and Liberal Secretary General Lucian Bode contributed 4,000 lei. AUR leader George Simion contributed 12,000 lei. PMP leader Eugen Tomac paid 4,185 lei. In the case of USR and UDMR we do not have this information.
Left: membership fees, mil. lei / Right: total membership fees, mil. lei
Members of political parties
Although political parties do not publish the number of members, EFOR analysed the income and expenditure reports and calculated the unique names who contributed to the parties. Thus, PNL registered 15,902 people, down to a third from 2021. At AUR we identified 9,630 members, which represents a significant increase. The figures are indicative and do not reflect the actual number of members, but illustrate the efforts of political parties to raise funds.
Number of unique members with membership fees per county organization
The amounts allocated to parties from subsidies continued to increase. If in 2021 parties received 234 million lei, in 2022 the amount allocated was 256 million lei and in 2023 it increased to 258 million lei. The sums were distributed among four parliamentary parties (PSD – 98 mil, PNL – 83 mil, USR – 45 mil and AUR – 20 mil) and two non-parliamentary parties (PMP – 5 mil and Pro Romania – 3.7 mil). Although the initial budget was 234 million, the amount was increased by a budget amendment in August to 256 million lei.
The budget approved at the beginning of the year was increased by a decision initiated by the PEA, approved in the August 2022 rectification. This decision was strongly criticised by several organizations and Expert Forum initiated a public petition, supported by 15.000 signatories to reduce subsidies and increase transparency. Taking such measures without transparency, arbitrarily, by an institution whose role is to manage funds could create the perception of political influence.
In 2022, parties spent 184 million lei (72% of the received sum), compared to 110 in 2021 (47% of the received sum). PSD spent 94% of the money received (compared to 61% in 2021) and PNL 66% compared to 43%. AUR spent no money in 2022 except for interest expenses. In the first three months of 2023, political parties received 95 million lei and spent 55 million lei, or 57%.
As in 2021, most money was spent on mass media and propaganda. The amounts spent increased from 62 million (2021) to over 100 million lei (54%). PSD spent 54 million lei (58% of expenditure), PNL 39 million lei (70% of expenditure) and USR billed 5 million lei (18%). In addition to funds for political advertising, the Liberals allocated another 10 million lei for polls, political activities and political consultancy, indicating an increase in promotional activities. AUR did not spend on advertising. The parties also spent on staff, with USR remaining the biggest spender.
Left: subsidies (mil. lei) / Right: subsidies – propaganda, per month (mil. lei)
In the first three months of 2023, PNL spending increased to 11 million lei, from 3.8 million lei in 2021 to 8.9 million lei in 2022. The Social Democrats spent 5 million lei in 2021, and in 2022 and 2023 the amount spent was around 12 million lei. At USR the amounts increased significantly compared to the same period: if in 2021 the party spent 175 thousand lei, in 2022 253 thousand lei, in 2023 it spent 2.8 million lei. In the case of Pro Romania almost all the money was spent on the budget category lawyers’, executors’ and experts’ fees. AUR made a purchase of vehicles for a health caravan and school minibuses in 2023.
Although the PEA has initiated a draft law defining political advertising, which in April has been submitted to Parliament by the PSD, so far transparency on political advertising remains an issue. Political parties will be required to mark the products and to submit quarterly reports as well annually lists with beneficiaries. Materials paid for by parties are not marked and the money trail – which often goes through consultancy companies – cannot be traced by external observers. In addition, PSD and PNL are reluctant to publish this information. In 2022, the PNL split the contracts between three firms, one of which received 31 million lei, but we we cannot follow where the funds were redirected to. Several international organisations, such as the European Commission and the Council of Europe, have noted the lack of transparency and the fact that this flow of funds affects the independence of the media. However, the current form of the draft does not solve the problem completely, as it is not clear whether information will be published about the final service providers or only about those who receive the money from the party and who may only be intermediaries.
Some other challenges brought by the bill:
- Election campaign contributions will only be published 30 days after the end of the election campaign, which significantly reduces campaign transparency. Currently, the PEA published this data usually every week during the campaign
- Parties can pay penalties from subsidies, which creates an uneven playing field
- The high and too flexible threshold for allocating subsidies (0.01 – 0.04% of the GDP) has not been changed.
- Increased limits for contributions/expenditure – practically, political parties will be able to contribute more than in the current legislative framework
- Loan repayment term has been extended from 3 to 5 years. However, the proposal to publish the loan repayment status on a quarterly basis on the institution’s website was not included.
- The conditions for the appointment of the director of the department controlling parties do not sufficiently prevent potential links with political parties.
See also the video of the report release event
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