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Politicians approve legislation for more funding transparency

Switzerland is the only Council of Europe member state without a law regulating political funding. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Parliament has approved the final amendments to a reform which will bring more transparency around political donations and campaign spending.

This content was published on June 16, 2021 - 12:35
swissinfo.ch, Keystone-SDA/dos

The legislation, approved by the larger chamber of parliament on Tuesday, will oblige political parties to declare all donations above CHF15,000 ($16,700). Organisers of election or vote campaigns will have to come clean about expenses above CHF50,000.

Anonymous political donations and donations from abroad will also be banned. Inspections will be carried out to check whether politicians are being upfront.

The legislation was batted back and forth between chambers in recent weeks, with the main bone of contention that Senators wanted to be exempt from the rules. They argued that – as representatives of the cantons – they should be held accountable by cantonal rules on funding.

In the end, a compromise was reached which says they will only be subject to the new rules once elected.

People’s initiative

The new rules, set to be formally ratified at the end of the current summer parliament session, are an alternative to the demands of the “transparency initiative”, a citizen initiative handed in four years ago.

Aiming to speed up a move towards transparency which politicians have been reluctant to act on in the past, the campaigners presented slightly tougher demands, calling for the donation threshold to start at CHF10,000.

They argued that Switzerland was a black sheep when it comes to transparency around political funding. Until now, it is the only country in the 47-member Council of Europe (CoE) that hasn’t passed legislation to regulate it.

As a result, the country has regularly been criticised by the CoE’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) watchdog.

Campaigners, who were from a range of left-wing and centrist parties, have however said they will withdraw the initiative if the parliament’s “indirect alternative” was ratified. On Tuesday, they hadn’t yet taken an official stance on whether they would do this.

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