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Political parties to be financed by taxpayers.

RIGA - Latvia's most popular political parties will be financed from the state budget from 2012. Each party which wins at least 2 percent of votes in the parliamentary elections will receive 0.5 lats (0.71 euros) for each supporter every year till the next elections. The measure, which is supposed to restore party independence, will only give politicians extra pin money, said analysts.

Political party dependence on powerful oligarch's money is one of the biggest of Latvia's problems. The only income parties can receive, according to the legislation, are donations from a member or any supporter. Meanwhile, parties need to finance election campaigns, to cover office rent, to arrange party congresses, to support their youth organizations, etc. Therefore, from 2012 the most popular parties will receive 0.5 lats for each vote they receive.

If the measure was implemented this year, the state would spend 427,500 lats to support the parties. The exact amount for the next four years will be calculated after the parliamentary elections in October. The money can be spent on office rent, Internet services, employment, attorney services and the election campaign. Parties are accountable to the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau for the expenditures.

The new bill will help parties to restore their independence and credibility, said Dzintars Zakis, the head of the New Era faction in the parliament.

"Many parties are in a vicious circle: they have to accept generous donations from the local oligarchs to finance the election campaigns. Nothing is for free, though. After the party gets into the parliament these donors ask for some favors, which often are in conflict with the state's interests. We have to stop this disgrace."

It is a common practice in the European Union countries, where parties are financed from the budget, said Zakis.

The opposition "Harmony center," the only faction which voted against the bill, said it was the height of cynicism and immoral to approve such a measure, when people are starving.

"The country suffers from a deep crisis. There is no money in the budget to support even the poorest, to pay pensions and social benefits. It is simply amoral to finance politicians from the budget in this situation. It is obvious that economics will not improve sharply by 2012, so how we can even speak about such a luxury?" said MP Valerijs Agesins.

"Harmony center" proposed an amendment to the bill to finance parties from 2016, but the parliament declined it.

The bill is incomplete and one-legged, because donations from oligarchs are still not regulated, said Iveta Kazoka, political analyst of think-tank Providus. "All my colleagues hoped that there will be additional regulations to this bill, but, unfortunately, there are none. Financing parties from the budget makes sense only if the limit of the amount which one can spend during the election campaign is lessened, and the flow of donations is controlled and limited. None of these was approved by the politicians."

Taxpayer money will become the only additional source of income for politicians to be spent on stationary and petrol. This amount could be valuable only between the elections to pay for the rent, however, closer to the sacramental day, politicians will come to the oligarchs again, said Kazoka, adding that "There is going to be no political party independence, [just] new expenditures for the state budget."

The bill has already been approved in the third reading and the president can promulgate it by the end of June.
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Author:Savchenko, Kira
Publication:The Baltic Times (Riga, Latvia)
Date:Jun 16, 2010
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