Political parties now depend on taxpayer funding

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The days when Norway’s political parties relied on membership dues and donations are over. State funding of the parties has skyrocketed in recent years, and the politicians are now spending more of the taxpayers’ money on themselves than ever before.

State support for the country’s political parties is expected to hit nearly NOK 340 million this year, reports newspaper Aftenposten . Dues paid by party members make up a smaller part of the parties’ budgets, and now even the politicians themselves are urging better control of the public funding.

The Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) , for example, only took in about NOK 3 million from party members in 2007, the last year for which certified accounts are available. Labour, however, secured NOK 94 million in taxpayer money, through state, county and municipal sources.

The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) received NOK 2.7 million through membership dues, compared to NOK 58 million in public funding, while the Conservatives (Høyre) received NOK 4.1 million in membership dues and NOK 46 million from the taxpayers. The public support is linked to membership numbers.

Only three of Norway’s seven political parties with representation in Parliament could claim more than 10 percent of its budget revenues from party members: the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkepartiet) , the Center Party (Senterpartiet) and the Liberals (Venstre).

The numbers come from a web site devoted to party financing, and where the parties are now obliged to publicize their accounts. The parties also now must begin to reveal how they spend the money they receive from public coffers. The Council of Europe’s anti-corruption panel Greco has recommended better insight into how the parties use their funding.

Asked whether the Conservative Party, for example, is wary of more disclosure, the leader of its election campaign for 2009 said no. The challenge, Øystein Eriksen Søreide told Aftenposten , is to clearly define what constitutes marketing, advertising and other party expenses. “We need a system so that all parties can be properly compared,” he said.