Surprise success for transparency in politics – is this the end of the Swiss secret of party donations?

Surprise success for transparency in politics - is this the end of the Swiss secret of party donations?

In the midst of clear Plexiglas, the National Council suddenly says yes to transparency in political financing. ; Alessandro Della Valle / Keystone

© Provided by Neue Zürcher Zeitung
In the midst of clear Plexiglas, the National Council suddenly says yes to transparency in political financing. ; Alessandro Della Valle / Keystone

Not much was missing to fail. If the National Council had said no again on Wednesday, the transparency initiative would have come to the polls «naked» – in other words: without Parliament having objected to it. But after the counter-proposal in the National Council had not had a chance in the first attempt, it was now surprisingly clearly accepted. The reason is a central adjustment to the template.

Parties are now to have to make public individual donations of an amount of CHF 15,000 or more. So far, this threshold was 25,000 francs. The FDP national councilor Andri Silberschmidt applied for the change. He says a bill that sets the limit at 25,000 francs would have been a “pseudo counter-proposal”. Parliament is now very accommodating to the initiators, who set the limit for the disclosure of political donations at 10,000 francs.

Several women parliamentarians from the center-left have also worked towards the compromise. One of them is the GLP National Councilor Corina Gredig. «Since the December session we have been in contact with our various parliamentary groups, but also with the initiators, in order to find a solution. We finally found each other at 15,000 francs. ” In addition, random checks at parties should be possible.

Initiative would have a good chance at the ballot box

In the overall vote in the National Council, the SP, Greens, GLP, FDP and part of the middle voted yes. The result was clear with 113 to 78 votes. It is astonishing that, despite the lower threshold, almost all free-spirited parliamentarians voted yes. Silberschmidt says: “The issue of transparency has not yet been a top priority for us. But since it is already on the agenda, we wanted to make a contribution to a workable solution. ” Because it has been shown that the initiative has good chances in the population. “No counter-proposal would therefore certainly be the worst solution.”

At the first attempt, the proposal in the National Council failed due to an unholy alliance. Sections of the bourgeoisie and the middle were skeptical, the left in the council criticized them as not very handy. The SP National Councilor Samira Marti, who worked towards the compromise with Gredig and Silberschmidt, says the limit for transparency is still high: “The median wage in Switzerland is a little more than 6,000 francs. Very few people can donate 15,000 francs to a party. ” Nevertheless, this is a viable solution for the Social Democrats. Should the Council of States try to raise the limit to 20,000 francs, this would be an “unsuitable solution” from Marti’s point of view.

A withdrawal of the initiative is likely

The Co-President of the Initiative Committee, Nadine Masshardt, emphasizes that 10,000 francs is already a lot, especially since in some cantons donations from 3000 or 5000 francs have to be made transparent and the European average the disclosure threshold is much lower. “But in terms of a compromise, the result is still very positive. Especially because the National Council has rejected all transparency bills since the 1960s, ”said the SP National Councilor.

The committee wants to discuss how to proceed before the responsible commission in the Council of States bows over the proposal again. Before that, Masshardt says nothing about whether she and her colleagues still want to put the initiative to the ballot box if the counter-proposal in the interests of the National Council goes through. Both Gredig and Silberschmidt explain, however, that they had received signals from the initiators that they would withdraw their concerns in this case.

Is the Council of States asking for further adjustments?

The adapted template could well have a chance in the Council of States. It was his state politicians who had originally pushed for a counter-proposal. In addition, the Council of States has already taken a big step in campaign financing. Initially, it was envisaged that committees would only have to disclose donations if their budget exceeded CHF 250,000. The Council of States approved a reduction of this limit to 50,000 francs in December.

Most of the Councils of States are likely to get angry at an additional point that the National Council has built in: They should make their own election campaign budgets transparent. In addition, parties would have to disclose in the future how much money they receive from elected officials. It is conceivable that the Council of States will accept the 15,000 francs, but delete the transparency requirement for themselves. And thus work a compromise out of the compromise.


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