Press Release: German Bundestag must become more transparent
(Unofficial translation; click here for the German original)
The German Bundestag is facing a long-demanded electoral law reform that should prevent a further increase in the size of the parliament. However, the Bundestag not only has a problem with the number of MPs, it also has a transparency problem.
In a geopolitical situation, in which autocratic and anti-democratic actors in and outside of Europe specifically seek influence over political and social processes in established European democracies; at a time, when corruption scandals are rocking European parliaments, the German Bundestag must also meet much higher standards when it comes to the transparency of party and campaign financing.
The current rules on campaign financing and the transparency rules on the publication of donations have long failed to meet international standards - including those of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), which have recommended the Bundestag to introduce stricter regulation of these issues for years. Their implementation has so far been insufficient. To the detriment of parliamentary democracy as well as Germany's international credibility.
We urgently recommend the German Bundestag to seriously consider the recommendations from the Council of Europe, OSCE/ODIHR and civil society, which have been pending for years, and use the upcoming electoral law reform as an opportunity to implement these overdue demands:
- Party donations should be limited to €50,000 per year/donor.
- The limit for immediate reporting and publication of a donation should be lowered from € 50,000 to € 10,000.
- The names of donors should be mentioned in the accountability report starting from € 2,000. According to research by LobbyControl, the current transparency threshold of €10,000 causes up to 75% of party donations to remain anonymous.
- Donations from abroad should be completely prohibited.
- Sponsorship rules should be aligned with donation rules.
- Against the backdrop of election campaigns increasingly being conducted online, especially indirect donations to parties in the form of campaign support by third parties or (often interest-free) loans must be more strictly regulated. So far, they can be used to circumvent official accountability requirements.
- Campaign spending should be capped in line with international best practice.
- Election campaign spending must be accounted for in a separate report in a timely manner.
- Following the recommendations of the Council of Europe, independent, extra-parliamentary bodies must be set up to control campaign and party financing and supplement the internal control of the parliamentary administration.
- The presence of international and domestic election observers should be regulated by law so that this may reflect provisions set out in paragraph 8 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document.
We call on the German Bundestag to implement these changes in the course of the forthcoming electoral law reform. A corresponding amendment of the Political Parties Act should be initiated immediately. The shift of significant parts of the election campaign to the internet, the increased willingness of anti-democratic actors at home and abroad to influence elections and parliaments in a damaging way, and the alarming developments in the United States do not allow any further delay in this urgent matter.
Germany will hardly be taken seriously as an international actor - also in the field of international democracy support - if the Bundestag itself does not take the basic rules of the Council of Europe and the OSCE seriously, which are considered when measuring progress in other states. An implementation of the above-mentioned demands will also have a signaling effect for German federal states, which are exposed to the aforementioned challenges to no lesser extent.
Stefanie Schiffer, Chairperson, European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE)
Michael Meyer-Resende, Executive Director, Democracy Reporting International
Imke Dierßen, Political Director, LobbyControl