Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Kurski vs. Tusk – round II

<Did opposition Civic Platform take illegal funding from state insurer PZU?

The accusations have been made by Jacek Kurski of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. He said that the presidential campaign last autumn of leader of Civic Platform, Donald Tusk, was indirectly funded by the PZU insurer – an organization no stranger to corruption scandals - to the tune of several million zlotys.

The scandal is an odd one. A series of billboard adverts hired by PZU proclaiming ‘Stop Crazy Drivers’ had to be removed after psychiatrists advised that the adverts were offensive (to crazy people?) and were probably themselves a road safety risk (to crazy drivers). As the space for the ads was already paid for by PZU they were ‘given’ to Civic Platform at a knock down price.


The PZU headquarters in Warsaw was raided by the police in search of the crazy evidence. Onet.pl:

Polish authorities seized evidence in the advertising case — this was only related to the advertising case and the accusations against PO and not with any alleged improprieties in the past,” a representative of the Polish appellate prosecutor's office told Interfax Friday.

Netzel - who is currently involved in a media battle with Polish daily Rzeczpospolita and promised to sue the paper over allegations that he was linked to money laundering - did not confirm what types of documents were seized during the conference.

Was it an elaborate set up by advertising agencies sympathetic to Civic Platform? Was PZU a victim, too? How much did it know? Talk of a liberal conspiracy is on the agenda again.

The link that PiS are trying to make between PZU and Civic Platform is that they are both part of the system of back scratching and sleaze between liberals and ex-communists – the uklad which got its hands on the spoils after 1989.

Tusk of course has angrily denied the claims and legal action looks likely. Kurski has made accusations against Tusk before. During the election campaign last year he claimed that members of Tusk’s family had fought for the Nazis in WW II. When the accusations were proved false Kurski was forced to resign from PiS, only to be reinstated after the election.

Polish political funding

It's a touchy subject here, for obvious reasons.

Political parties are not allowed to receive funding from corporations. Nor are they allowed to take money from abroad.

They can take a limited amount of individual donations and are also funded by the state, the extent depending on previous election results. The Electoral Knowledge Network says:

‘A political party may collect financial resources exclusively from individuals. Each donation of that kind cannot exceed 15 times the minimum monthly wage of a worker on the day preceding transfer. A political party may accrue its financial resources only in bank account. [no cash turning up in a suitcase, then].’

The amount that parties receive from individuals is not massive as Poland has the lowest party membership in the EU. (1.15% of the electorate). Austria has a membership rate of 17%.

As the general enthusiasm about political parties is limited to so few the state has had to step in and cough up the rest.

But this wasn’t always so. In 1989 Solidarity revealed that the Communist party has been receiving money illegally from the state for the elections that followed the Round Table talks in 1989.

It was only in 1993 that the state started to pay for electoral expenses. Since 2001 the proportion of party spending coming from the state has increased. In 2002 parties received around 15 million dollars in total, plus free broadcast spots on television.

The amount of support in the country for direct state funding is not high. But the fear of corruption from private funding means that direct state finding will continue.

Personally I don’t see why parties should be centrally funded. If parties cannot gain financial support that’s because they are not popular. The pitifully low level of party membership here shows that Polish political parties have no roots whatsoever in society. Therefore, why should society continue to subsidies them?

Political parties are not public libraries.


beatroot said...

OK...but what do you think about political funding? I really need to know.

Anonymous said...

Put it like this, parties funded by the state are on a more equal level than ones that get their money from elsewhere (say, corporations). This means that, in theory, the actual best party for the country, rather than simply the richest/one with most businesses backing it will get into power.

Have a look at Britain for example - the money spent by the major parties per vote is absolutely huge, and leads to smaller parties having absolutely no chance to compete effectively. Britain has a three party state (though I suppose First Past the Post plays a role here too), with a minority of people supporting these parties. Plus there was that recent loans-for-peerages scandle....

I think partly government funded parties is a much fairer way of doing things. Especially blocking donations from large businesses which have far too much influence over politics in other countries.

ps. love the blog. I can keep up with what's going on in the motherland.

Frank Partisan said...

I thought the scandal with the insurance company was quite complex. To pull it off on purpose, required many things coming into play, at certain times. It would mean for example, that the offensive signs had to be noticed, and at a particular time.

beatroot said...

You are right that it is complex, Renegade. We now have counter allegations from Tusk's team against the president...but if Tusk does get cuaght out like this then it will be very serious for him.

Pani Ostroska...

Glad you like the blog. You are right that the UK parties spend loads of money. Lots of research shows that high spending on political campaignz makes NO DIFFERENCE to results in elections.

maybe put a cap on spending (I would gove them ten quid and a bottle of red bull).