Montenegro to Hike Funding for Political Parties

Political parties in Montenegro have been allocated twice as much state money in the 2016 budget than during the previous election cycle in 2012, despite the fact the country is facing large budget shortfalls.

montenegro

Political parties in Montenegro will receive about 6.56 million euro from the state budget this year – almost twice as much as they were allocated in 2012, when the last general elections were held.

Of the funds, 4.63 million euro are intended for the financing of regular party work and 1.93 million for the campaign for the general elections planned this year. The funding allocation is proportional to the number of seats a party has in  parliament, so the largest amount will go to the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, which holds 29 of the 81 seats.
According to an analysis by a local watchdog called the Centre for Democratic Transition, CDT, which BIRN has seen, four years ago, ten parties with parliamentary status received 2.98 million from the budget and an additional 1.48 million for the election.  “In comparison with the budgets of [state] institutions, in 2016 parties will get only one million [euro] less than the state prosecution’s budget, four times more than newly established Anti-Corruption Agency or 3.5 times more than the Constitutional Court for its work,” the CDT’s report said.  The organization calculated that political parties will cost Montenegrin citizens 18,000 euros a day or 750 euros an hour in 2016.
The funding increase for political parties comes as the approved budget for 2016 of 2.1 billion euro is targeting a deficit of 276.6 million euro, equivalent to 7.2 per cent of the country’s GDP. The size of the public debt is projected to rise to 68.5 per cent of GDP by the end of 2016 and the government will borrow up to 205 million euro.
While the cabinet said the budget would support society and the country’s development, the opposition, which voted against it in parliament, said the rise in public spending was mainly designed to support the ruling parties in an election year. Economic analyst Ivana Gudovic said that the budget for 2016 was designed more with electoral considerations in mind than development.
Gudovic noted government plans to increase funds for civil service salaries by 13 million euros, even though it has been urged to reduce public sector spending by the EU. “There is no announcement of public-sector layoffs; on the contrary, the government is employing additional staff from the ruling party,” Gudovic told BIRN.

Montenegro has been often criticized for excessively large allocations to political parties from the state budget, the lack of audit reports on political parties and non-transparent financing. The 2015 EU Progress Report on Montenegro, published in November last year, warned that alleged irregularities in the area of political party and electoral campaign financing, such as the abuse of state funds for political party purposes, have not been appropriately investigated. “Only a very small number of irregularities were established in connection with the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns. They all relate to the failure to submit annual reports on incomes, assets and expenditures,” the report said.

Balkan Insight

19 January 2016