The Electoral Code should envisage lower cash donations, to which parties and coalitions are entitled during election campaigns. This opinion was backed unanimously by representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) at a discussion, "New Electoral Rules - Status Quo against Need of Change", held in Sofia on Monday.
The discussion was organized within a project of the Institute for Development of Public Environment with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy.
The Transparency without Borders Association objected to the amount that can be given under the form of a cash donation. Under the Electoral Code, over 5,000 leva could be donated through bank. The Association insists that the donation be reduced down to two minimum working wages. Besides, cash donations should be declared and checked. "We assess in positive terms the introduction of a public register of donors and the requirement that the donations and donors be posted on the Internet," said Vanya Nousheva of Transparency without Borders.
Daniel Smilov of the Centre for Liberal Strategies also joined the opinion that cash donations should be curtailed to comply with Bulgarian standards. In his opinion the National Audit Office cannot exercise real control over the financing of election campaigns due to the lack of adequate resources. For this reason, he proposed the establishment of an independent sub-commission for this purpose under the Electoral Commission or a special department with the Audit Office.
Antoaneta Tsoneva of the Institute for Development of Public Environment suggested that the text of the Electoral Code be sent for opinion to the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission). Tsoneva believes that a definition of donation should be given and it should also cover in-kind donations and aid by third parties. Another proposal involves setting a ceiling of the personal funds of the participants in the election campaigns. According to her, the Code should specify that public resources, such as cars and premises, may not be used in election campaigns. She urged to reconsider the provision barring juristic persons from assisting the campaign because it is circumvented.
The Institute also proposes that broadcasts of parties, coalitions and initiative committees over public media be free of charge.
On November 18 the National Assembly passed the Electoral Code at first reading with 104 votes "for", 39 "against" and eight abstainees. The code was tabled by GERB joint Floor Leader Iskra Fidosova and a group of MPs.