Analysis report

The subsidies of political parties in 2023

In 2023 there was no significant improvement regarding the transparency of political parties in the spending of public funds, and neither was there more responsibility coming from parties themselves. Their contracts with press entities are just as ambiguous, hence the only known details in the public space can be found in a relatively small number of articles by online publications (such as Libertatea or Recorder). 

Likewise, EFOR constantly published reports on parties’ expenses. A bill that would have made the marking of political advertising materials transparent and would have pressured parties to constantly report on the destination of public money they use is currently blocked for debate in the Chamber of Deputies and has low chances of passing before the electoral year of 2024. Even though a consensus was reached concerning the approval of the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the transparency and targeting of political advertising, the rules regarding the transparency of political advertising won’t go into effect anytime soon.

In addition, the budget for subsidies in 2024 is 314 mil. RON, is a third higher than in 2023. Although subsidies may increase in election years, we remind you that we are already starting from a very high value, so any additional it can only lead to the consolidation of political monopoly by a small number of parties and the reduction of competition in elections. EFOR protested this increase and called on political parties to reduce subsidy allocations.

 

 

Our main conclusions of the analysis can be found below. The analysis regarding the expenses only reflects the data from January to October, since we only have this information available at the moment.

  • Even though the approved budget for 2023 was 258 mil. RON, only 277 mil. RON was transferred to six parties. The payments for PMP were suspended, while Pro Romania does transfer all the money to a bailiff, following a court decision, to pay the value of some contracts for promotional materials. The parties spent 198 mil. RON up to and including October.

  • Analyzing the amounts received and spent by political parties from January to October 2023, we observe that most parties spent more money than they were given; parties can spend money from the subsidies they saved. Only PSD and PNL have kept their expenses under the limit of the received funds, whilst the most obvious growth is registered for AUR, who in the past years did not spend any money for party activities.
  • Overall, most of the funds were spent on the below categories which reveals that the top priority of parties is not for developing the organization, but rather for creating a positive image before the election year 2024.
    • media and propaganda – 98 mil. RON – 49% of total expenses
    • staff – 18 mil. RON – 9% of total expenses
    • opinion polls – 15 mil. RON lei – 8%
    • political consultancy – 14 mil. RON – 7%
    • movable and immovable goods / activities of a political nature – 6%

  • Comparing the amounts spent on media and propaganda, a constant growth of these in the last three years can be noticed. In 2021 political parties spent 62 mil. RON and in 2022 the amounts allocated reached 100 mil RON, whilst in the first 10 months of 2023, 98 mil RON are already spent meaning that in 2023 spending will be higher than in previous years. This development discloses that parties keep investing more in promoting their image as the elections approach. However, the legislative framework remains problematic, since political advertising is not marked and citizens are not informed on regarding the materials that are ordered. We remind you that this phenomenon can have disastrous effects for the electoral competition and on the access to valid information, not on ones resulting from such press contracts. The parties that have spent the most money in the first 10 months of 2023 were PSD which was allocated 46,7 mil.RON (67% of the money spent until October), PNL 37,7 mil. RON (65%) and USR 11,9 mil. RON (33%). Unlike the past years when AUR decided not to spend the money received from subsidies, in 2023 the entity invested in advertising too, spending 1.04 mil. RON  (4%). It should be noted that AUR has already started its campaign by distributing leaflets and other publications. PMP also spent a million lei for this category representing 24% of the funds spent. In the case of PSD, it can be seen that the expenditure increased even during the summer months, when the party did not spend too much money in the previous years.

  • Regarding the opinion polls, we will notice that in 2023 the allocated funds doubled compared to 2022: in 2022 parties paid 7 mil. RON, while in 2023 they paid 15 mil. RON. In 2020 the expenses only reached 2 mil. RON. Most of the funds were spent by AUR and PNL.

Recommendations:

For the Parliament:

  • Debate the draft law amending Law 334/2006 (AEP draft, taken over by PSD) judiciously and transparently.  Specifically, the law should provide for the marking of political advertising and the reporting of contracts publicly.
  • Reducing the limits for the allocation of funds from Law 334/2006 and reduce the amounts allocated and paid annually to political parties.
  • Imposing a more predictable and stable subsidy budgeting system that does not lead to large variations from one year to another. Establishing clear limits of the PEA’s powers to manage the allocation of state subsidies. The law should not allow the PEA top request additional funding without any restriction or clear justification.
  • Unspent public subsidy funds allocated to parties should be returned to the state at the end of the year or within a fixed period if not used.

For the PEA:

  • The PEA should clarify the criteria based on which the annual budget for subsidies is established and explain them publicly.
  • The PEA must publish data related to political financing in an open format.

 


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