Party Financing Law will come into effect in January 2016

Justice and Local Government Minister Owen Bonnici has announced that the law on political party financing will be introduced on 1 January.

By means of this law, political parties will not be able to accept donations of over €25,000 a year from the same person. The law also makes a distinction between donations which are and are not permissible.

In a press conference in front of Parliament, together with Dr Franco Debono, the Minister outlined the main points of this law which for the first time will regulate the function of political parties in our country.

Dr Bonnici said that the purpose of this Act was to make the political process, including the internal process within the parties, more responsible and transparent. He said that the way that parties are financed directly influenced the democratic process which is aimed towards expressing the free will of the people.

Minister Bonnici said that once it comes into effect, the political parties will have until June 2016 to register with the Electoral Commission and send a report listing the amounts of the donations they have received.

Dr Bonnici explained that the the political parties’ expenses have to be verified by a qualified auditor, and sent to the Electoral Commission and be made available to the public as well as published on the Commission’s website.

Registration, reporting and donations 

He added that all of the donations have to be registered in the books of the political parties. He said that  during a fundraising activity, a party can accept donations of up to €50 without the need of an individual registration.  He said that political parties could also accept donations between €50 to €500 without being obliged to report every specific donation to the Commission but could report just the global amount of these donations.   However, he said that if the Commission  had proof which indicated that the amount of the donation from the same source was declared to be under €500, but was in fact for a higher amount, then the Commission had the right to insist to see the register of these donations in order to verify them. The parities were still obliged to keep a record of donations between €50 and €500.

The parties were obliged to register individual donations which were between €500 and €7, 000 but were not obliged to report their specific source to the Commission. However, he added, the parties could not receive donations for these amounts confidentially, and that if requested by the Commission, they had to reveal the source of the donations.

The Minister also explained that every donation which is over €7,000 needed to be reported to the Commission, citing the source.

He said that a donation of over €25,000 from the same source could not be made more than once a year, and the Commission had the obligation to publish online the list of donations which were over €7,000, together with at the names of those who had donated these amounts.

MPs can lose their seat if they give false information

The Act also provides for a scheme of enforcement by means of administrative fines which can be imposed by the Commission on the political parties, on independent candidates and on party officials.

He added that the Act will include amendments to other laws, including the Constitution and the General Elections Act. He said that the amendments will introduce new Constitutional procedures by means of which an MP can lose his or her seat if the Constitutional Court decides that false information was given about his/her electoral expenses or if he/she has spent more than the permitted amount for his/her general elections campaign.

Revision of amounts which candidates can spend 

A new procedure has been introduced by which the campaign expenses of a candidate who has been elected will be reviewed more quickly. This will remove any uncertainty about whether an MP has spent more than he/she should have on the campaign or whether they have given false information about their campaign expenses, therefore making them subject to Constitutional procedures to be removed from their seat.

The maximum amount  a candidate can spend on the General Elections campaign will be €20, 000 or €40, 000 if he/she is contesting on two districts.

For the MEP elections, a candidate can spend €50, 000 and €5,000 for the Local Council elections.