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Providus: it is impossible for Latvian parties to attract large funding honestly

Iveta Kažoka/youtube.com.
«If we look at political parties’ ability to attract funding from large companies, for example, conclusions are rather sad – there is no way for parties in Latvia to attract funding in an honest way,» Providus think tank researcher Iveta Kažoka said in an interview to BNN.

She continues: «It is a fundamental problem for Latvian parties. During discussions at Lampa festival this matter was mentioned by nearly all participating parties off-camera that this is a matter in need of resolving».

In 2015, Estonian parties divided amongst themselves EUR 5,400,000. Lithuanian parties divided EUR 5,800,000. Latvian parties, on the other hand, received EUR 612,398 from the state budget, which is approximately nine times less than the amount provided to neighbours.

Kažoka explained that parties either have to make do with scraps, which is not nearly enough to work successfully, or resort to scheming. «Often they are caught red-handed with their schemes – law enforcement institutions take notice of their activities.» She also adds that most of the time, however, institutions like Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau fail to notice political parties’ schemes.

There has to be funding to sustain a party

«To reach out to voters, there has to be some funding – to pay for visual materials, to sustain the party and communicate with 500 members and organize their work. Without resources, this cannot be done efficiently,» says the researcher.

She says the situation in Latvia is absolutely dramatic in the context of the Baltic region. «Funding for parties is ten times lower. At the same time, Latvian society is not less demanding. We expect parties to be less corrupted and be able to provide quality political programmes and experienced people in different sectors for ten times lower funding.»

«Parties do become corrupted. Because of that, it is necessary to think of a way to reduce pressure on Latvian parties and prevent them from looking for funding in corrupted sources. But the only solution that works in the European Union and the world is providing sufficient funding to parties from the state budget,» says Kažoka.

She does add that even when political parties are financed from state funds sufficiently, it does not prevent all corruption risks. «Nevertheless, pressure on parties is not as high, and party members who want the party to work honestly have their say, because this principle makes sure the party stays afloat and has sufficient resources to create political programmes.»

In 2012, Latvia started gradually introducing state funding for political parties with a plan to perform reassessment of improvement options every couple of years. No reassessment has been performed so far, as concluded in Providus’ study ‘State funding for Latvian parties: whereto next?’

According to Kažoka, the established system forces politicians to search for ways to get dirty money. Even if a political party has the best of intentions to serve the country, the party still needs dirty money to get in a place of power in order to influence the political system.

Insufficient party funding is bad for voters, too

In response to a comment that the average voter would not be happy about the idea to increase funding for political parties, Kažoka said that ‘voters are not the ones who think about the amount of funding a party needs to function normally.’

As a comparative example, Kažoka said voters should think about their wage in Latvia and that this amount is one tenth of what people are paid in Lithuania and Estonia. «So then – what kind of return can they expect?»

«Unless we’re talking about a very confident voter who can manage without a parliament and government, everyone will have to understand in time that what is paid to parties from the state budget is a very small amount, and that this does not motivate them to work more and better,» adds Kažoka. She explains that the consequence from this is that parties are prepared to work honestly, but are simply unable because parties less scrupulous about their standards and ready to attract illegal funding or funding ‘with strings attached’ make it to government seats. «This is ruinous for Latvia’s political party system in the long run,» adds Kažoka.

She also adds that «this situation is bad for voters, too, because they depend on decisions made by parties: the level of professionalism in the development of reforms associated with taxes, the level of honesty for courts, and different privileges for specific groups. All this depends on laws approved by the Saeima and the government’s professionalism».

If everything voters have to say about politicians consists of nothing but hate, they will stay in this loop for a very long time

«If parties are as weak in Latvia as we assume, we cannot expect any progress in the aforementioned fields,» said Kažoka.

She says in-depth assessment is needed to understand this chain of thought. «If the only thing voters have on their minds is hate directed towards politicians, parties without knowledge why parties and politicians in Latvia are so weak and that is largely depends on our own investment in parties and politicians, then there is no way out – voters will stay in this look for a long time.»


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