Analysis report

The subsidies of political parties in 2024 and the opacity of the electoral pre-campaign period

The report analyzes incomes and expenditures of political parties related to subsidies from the first 3 months of the year 2024 and the issues related to the lack of transparency during the pre-campaign period.

 

Section dedicated to subsidies on Banipartide.ro

EFOR has released a new section of the portal www.banipartide.ro, dedicated to subsidies, which illustrates the incomes and expenditures of political parties, including all publicly available data. The section can be accessed at www.banipartide.ro/subventii.

Main conclusions:

The Permanent Electoral Authority transferred a total of 67.6 million lei to five parties for the period of January-March:

  • PSD – 26.5 million lei
  • PNL – 22.5 million lei
  • PMP – did not receive funds due to a legal dispute over the party presidency
  • USR – 12.1 million lei
  • AUR – 5.3 million lei
  • ProRo – 1 million lei, but the funds are transferred to a judicial executor

The parties spent more than they received until March, totalling 81 million lei – 120%. AUR spent the most compared to what it received in these three months, reaching 240%. There is a significant increase in the amounts invested by parties compared to previous years. For example, in 2023, parties had spent 55 million lei by March, and in 2022, 34 million lei – which can be explained, of course, by the fact that 2024 is an election year and higher expenses are expected. The parties spent as follows:

  • PSD spent 27/26 million lei – 102% of the amount transferred by AEP for the period of January-March 2024
  • PNL – 23/22 million lei – 105% of the amount transferred by AEP for the period of January-March 2024
  • PMP – there were no recorded incomes, only expenses of 173 thousand lei
  • USR – 17/12 million lei – 141% of the amount transferred by AEP for the period of January-March 2024
  • AUR – 12/5 million lei – 240% of the amount transferred by AEP for the period of January-March 2024
  • Pro Romania – the funds are transferred to a judicial executor, nearly 1 million lei.

The highest expenses were made in March, totalling 35 million, compared to 20 million in February and 25 million in January.

The largest sums were spent on:

  • Media and propaganda – 43.8 million lei – 53% of total expenses
  • Personnel – 7.7 million lei – 9% of total expenses
  • Political consultancy – 7.5 million lei – 9% of total expenses
  • Political activities – 5.9 million lei – 7%
  • Opinion polls – 4.6 million lei – 5%
  • Movable and immovable property – 3.1 million lei – 4%

For the rest of the categories, the percentages are below 3% – nearly 9 million lei.

Expenses for media and propaganda have steadily increased since 2021, for the same period of time. If in 2021, parties spent 10 million lei in the first 3 months, in 2024 they spent nearly 44 million. Parties have reached the highest values of expenses since these data have been measured. PSD spent 8.4 million lei in January 2024, surpassing previous records from the end of 2021 (7.2 million lei). PNL and AUR achieved these performances in March 2024, with 6.2 million lei and 4.8 million lei, respectively. USR also spent the most compared to the party’s subsidy history – 4.3 million lei in March. On the other hand, in February PNL spent only 432 thousand lei, which is on the one hand the lowest monthly allocation. Online advertising remains a small part of promotion expenses – 2.4 million lei in the first 3 months (PSD, PNL, USR, and AUR).

Expenses for polls have reached 4.8 million lei. Only three parties have spent on opinion polls:

  • PSD – 2.3 million lei. An increase is noticed compared to previous months.
  • PNL – 1.1 million lei
  • USR – 1 million lei

In organizing political activities, AUR, USR, and PNL stand out, with 2.5 million lei, and 1.5 million lei respectively. PSD spent significantly less, namely 376 thousand lei. The significant increase may also indicate that outside of election years, parties do not invest much money in organizing political activities with citizens.

As for personnel, costs have reached 7.7 million lei. There is also an increase in personnel costs compared to previous years, but not as significant as in other categories. Proportionally, PMP spent the most, followed by USR. The parties spent as follows:

  • PSD – 1.7 million lei
  • PNL – 1.1 million lei
  • USR – 2.9 million lei
  • AUR – 1.7 million lei
  • PMP – 125 thousand lei

Subsidies in the electoral context and the lack of transparency in the pre-campaign period.

  • According to electoral legislation, the campaign begins on May 10 and ends on June 8. Before the start of the electoral campaign, we do not speak of electoral promotion, but of political promotion. The current law does not include any definition of political advertising, and there are no prohibitions related to message or format for political promotion materials.
  • Until the beginning of the campaign, there are no regulations that require political parties to mark political promotion materials, and the variety of materials that can be used for this purpose is much greater.
  • In reality, the period preceding the electoral campaign is much more visible in terms of promotion, and parties spend a lot of money, possibly from subsidies, with very few transparency obligations.
  • In short, we have identified the following problems related to the regulation of the period before the start of the electoral campaign, which affect the transparency and integrity of the entire electoral process. It is worth mentioning that these are not new issues; they have been consistently repeated since 2016.
  • During the pre-campaign period, promotion is much more intense, but with minimal reporting obligations;
  • It is not possible to determine who pays for the promotion materials, as there are no obligations to mark them. Practically, these could be paid for by anyone. There are no transparency obligations regarding the party or person who ordered the material, who is using it, or its purpose;
  • There are no transparency or reporting obligations for individuals running as independents;
  • The effectiveness of reporting mechanisms during the campaign is reduced by shifting a significant part of promotion activities to the pre-campaign period;
  • There are no control mechanisms to compare the situation of materials produced and placed in the public space or online with what is reported in writing. AEP only conducts checks at the documentation level. Therefore, party financing legislation can open the space for expenses to be incurred without being reported, as they are not tied to the election campaign month.
  • The electoral campaign period is very limited in terms of promotion means, significantly reducing electoral competition;
  • All these shortcomings cannot be resolved by decisions of the Permanent Electoral Authority or the Central Electoral Bureau but require a reform of legislation, as the current formula is flawed and detrimental to fair electoral processes. However, such a reform should not affect freedom of expression but rather diversify promotion methods in the campaign and increase reporting and control efficiency.

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