Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Macedonian parties sanctioned for campaign financing violations

During the July parliamentary elections in Macedonia, only seven parties complied with campaign finance regulations, according to the country's election commission. Eleven other political formations -- including the election winner VMRO-DPMNE and the former ruling party, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) -- broke the rules and now face fines.

The commission said last week that it has filed misdemeanor charges against parties, coalitions and voters' groups that failed to turn in a required financial report on time. The violators could each face penalties of up to 5,000 euros.

The VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM, meanwhile, have been told to release the names of those who funded their campaigns. Otherwise they too will face misdemeanor charges.

In reports submitted to the commission, the VMRO-DPMNE said it had spent 1,262,000 euros on its campaign, while the SDSM said it spent 862,000 euros.

SDSM Secretary General Nikola Kjurciev explained the party had submitted a complete report, including the names of donors, to the State Auditing Institute. "If it is necessary, we will submit the report to the State Election Commission as well," Kjurciev said.

The election commission also is filing misdemeanor charges against seven television channels: MRTV, Sitel, Alsat, A1, Artan, Ohrid, and Orbis. It says they did not provide balanced coverage of all the parties during the campaign. That conclusion stems from a report by the Radio Diffusion Council, a panel responsible for monitoring television broadcasting.

The Election Code obligates parties to submit a report on the total amount of money spent, as well as sources of funding and private expenditures, within 30 days from the verification of MPs' terms.

Campaign finance practices in Macedonia were a major target of criticism by the OSCE in its report on the July elections. The OSCE called for the Election Code to be amended, and for clear and precise provisions to be established in order to prevent illegal methods of funding.

The seven parties that did comply with the rules were The New Social Democratic Party, the DUI-PDP coalition, the League for Democracy, National Democratic Party, the Serb Radical Party, the DRUM and the United Macedonians coalition.

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