Transparency initiative on its way out

Not even a view from the Senate balcony can make sources of political funding more transparent Keystone

Three months before the deadline, organisers of the political funding transparency initiative have conceded defeat. With only 47,015 signatures collected, they see no chance of getting the 100,000 needed to bring the initiative to a vote.

This content was published on September 9, 2012 minutes and agencies

The  bipartisan committee, primarily comprising young members of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party and the recently formed  Pirate Party, decided to stop actively collecting signatures a few weeks ago.

"If you look at it realistically, we have no chance,” Pascal Fouquet, spokesman of the initiative committee and president of the Pirate Party of canton Bern, told the Swiss News Agency on Sunday.

The group had already conceded in May that they were having difficulties drumming up enough support for the initiative, which would require members of the Senate and House of Representatives to declare how much money they receive from mandates, side jobs, and gifts. It would not require the parliamentarians to provide information about their primary source of income.

According to Fouquet, there was enough backing for the initiative among voters. “Nine out of ten people approached on the street signed it,” he said.

The larger problem was that the initiative lacked the support – particularly financial - of a major  organisation or party. Up until September, the group had collected only SFr10,000 ($10,590).

In fact, the initiative had had political support from Social Democrat Andy Tschümperlin, who submitted a motion mirroring the initiative to the parliament, but the House, in a 96 to 84 vote in March, decided to await the results of the initiative.

Switzerland has been accused of a lack of transparency not just on party funding, but on money raised by campaign committees for nationwide referendums and initiatives, and on financial support given to individual politicians.

"Politicians in general like to talk about more transparency, but when it gets concrete they hold back,” Fouquet said.

People’s initiatives

Initiatives enable citizens to make alterations to the Swiss constitution. To bring a proposal before the people for a vote, initiants first have to collect at least 100,000 signatures within 18 months.

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Switzerland is one of the few countries in Europe to have no legally binding rules on party funding. The non-governmental organisation Transparency International has criticised the Swiss system for fostering corruption and abuse of party funds.

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