Greek Political Parties Face Cuts

ATHENS – Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis is due to meet lawmakers from the coalition government’s ruling parties on July 23 to review a plan to change how political parties are funded.

The change is one of five unfinished major reforms demanded by the country’s international lenders before the release of a next installment of one billion euros from what’s left of two bailouts of 240 billion euros ($327 billion.)

A set of proposals – drafted by Ioannis Tentes, the country’s anti-corruption coordinator – would drastically overhaul the system of political funding in Greece, which now allocates public money to private political parties, although some also use the monies as collateral to get bank loans.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and his partner, the PASOK Socialists, owe banks 250 million euros ($336.43 million) and aren’t paying.

Parties also don’t have to account for how the free money they are given is spent, and despite the largesse and loans, PASOK is having deep financial problems, including being unable to pay the rent on one of its quarters and at one point hadn’t paid its staff. There are no public records where all the money went.

The proposed regulations include:

-Creation of a five-member panel to monitor the finances of parties as well as the declaration of source of assets (“pothen esches”) forms submitted by politician

-The halving of state funding to parties and the reduction of election funding

-Introduction of a stricter system for governing parties’ bank accounts, which will have to be based in Greece

-Creation of an electronic system for checking politicians’ assets

But at the same time the government is proposing other measures that would allow political parties to get private donations in a major change in political funding and Samaras has put forth a voluntary plan in which politicians could choose to be more transparent about their income.