Professor of Innovation and Regional Governance Marcel Bogers of the University of Twente is concerned about the tight budgets of local parties. “More and more complex tasks are falling on the shoulders of municipalities. This requires a lot of council members. Council members also need some support with this and it costs money.”
The Felling Commission also reached this conclusion when, in 2017, it evaluated the Political Party Financing Act on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior. The expert group advises granting subsidies to all parties that have at least one seat on the municipal council, because otherwise the basic functions of representative democracy cannot be performed in an “appropriate manner”.
It’s not just a practical problem, Bogers says. The professor also believes that the lack of support for local parties is risky. “The risk is that you are more or less pushing them into the arms of the local business community, which is all too willing to buy influence and fund those parties largely through donations.”
Party leader David Chalkin Dean Hartog of Peter Voor Dordt also worries about this. “Suppose a wealthy Dordrecht businessman donates a large sum and then I have to vote on something that affects him directly, which makes the business very complicated.”
Gifts of €4,500 or more to national parties are public, which makes it difficult to buy leverage. The rules are less strict for local parties. They must have donation regulations that state how donations are to be given to the public, but the parties can choose themselves from whatever amount they consider the amount to be a donation.
In the end, everyone benefits from a good and professional municipal council, thinks Schalken den Hartog. “In any case, the playing field should be more level, also financially.” However, his party does not accept donations “to avoid even the emergence of a conflict of interest”. “But not every party does it this way.”
“Transparency is the core value of democracy,” says the Felling Commission. That is why experts not only want to grant subsidies to all political parties with at least one seat, but also want to impose transparency requirements on all elected political parties. Next week, the House of Representatives will discuss the future of political party financing.
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