This year, the PEC will check the activities of 205 political parties. If no more than 30 parties were registered 10 years ago, after the amendments to the law on political parties in 2015, their number increased rapidly. According to the current legislation, a political party can be created only with 3 signatures of the founders. This policy is much friendlier than in other countries where the number of signatures is higher, as was also the case in Romania. But if these conditions were relaxed, party financing was also not adapted to the needs of new entities, which may be regional or local in nature and which compete in the market with consolidated parties that have significant financial resources, large donors and that receive subsidies from the state .

Septimius ParvusPhoto: Personal archive

Although several NGOs, including the Expert Forum, have called for changes to the legislation so that new parties also have easier access to resources, the main parliamentary parties are not interested in liberalizing the political market. Access to subsidies is linked either to the status of a parliamentary party or to obtaining 50 mandates as a district councilor or general council of the municipality of Bucharest. The latter condition is very restrictive, and after the local elections in September 2020, only two parties benefited from public money: the People’s Movement Party and Pro Romania, which were actually very close to the 5% limit needed to enter parliament. There are no alternative resources, as in the Scandinavian countries, where there are trust funds for the activities of political parties, or as in Estonia, where there are alternative limits for obtaining subsidies below the parliamentary limit of 5%.

In Romania, subsidies became the main source of funding for political parties after 2016. But Romania is not an exception, subsidies have become the main source of work for most parties with a parliamentary vocation in Europe. A study published by the European Parliament in 2021 shows that in many countries, subsidies make up more than 60-70% of parties’ sources of income. And we must clarify from the very beginning that subsidies in themselves are not harmful to democracy, on the contrary, they can have a positive effect on the development of the political market. Subsidies can support new parties, thereby diversifying the political market, or they can help reduce corruption. Of course, they can also have negative consequences if the rules are not designed to ensure diversity and strengthen competitiveness mechanisms.

Romania seems to fall more into the second category. If 10 years ago the parties did not receive more than 2 million euros collected annually, since 2016 their value has begun to increase significantly. After the changes promoted by former PSD treasurer Mircea Dragić in 2018, the real explosion came after 2018-2019. Then the annual limits were changed from 0.01-0.04% of the state budget to 0.01-0.04% of GDP. In 2022 and 2023, the parties received more than 250 million, i.e. more than 50 million euros. It should be noted that formations of national minorities also receive about 40 million euros. Returning to the subsidies, most of these amounts go to the parliamentary parties, i.e. PSD, PNL, AUR and USR. UDMR does not receive money from subsidies, as it has chosen to receive funds through the other mechanism mentioned earlier, which is more generous. Last year, PSD collected 98 million lei, PNL a total of 83 million lei, 45 million USR and 20 million AUR. Two extra-parliamentary parties received 5 million (PMP) and 3.7 million (Pro Romania).

Regarding income, in 2022 the data available for 93 political parties (according to the information on the website of the Ministry of Finance) shows that they recorded an income of 276 million lei, but 27 of them had no income. As I said, there are several parties registered in Romania, but for some I could not find information on financial statements from several years ago, and many parties declare zero income. Regarding the first reason, an example is the Romanian Environmental Party (PER), for which there is no more data for 2018, although it had candidates in the last parliamentary elections. The vast majority of revenues, i.e. 99%, were recorded by 10 parties. In addition to those receiving subsidies, there are also Social Liberal Humanist Party (founded by Dan Voiculescu), Alliance for the Fatherland (affiliated with Liviu Dragnea), Forța Dreptei (led by Ludovic Orbán), PNȚCD, United Diaspora, Rights alternative, Câmpina Curată or Greater Romania. The subsidized parties reported in advance significant amounts, tens of millions of lei, of profits, which may represent saved subsidies. That is, it is a saving, since the parties do not spend all the funds from subsidies for a calendar year.

Other sources of income are reduced in non-election years. After subsidies, the largest income comes from membership fees, i.e. the amounts paid by members of political parties. PSD collected 9.4 million (more than in 2021), 8.5 million PLN (compared to 10 million in 2021) and 3.3 million USR, less than the previous year. AUR stands out, which grew from 879,000 lei to 2.9 million lei. In the case of AUR, the number of contributors has also grown significantly, with an estimated 9,300 unique people contributing last year. Read the whole article and comment on