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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Our View: Expense ceiling for campaigns a smokescreen for true costs ]

Our View: Expense ceiling for campaigns a smokescreen for true costs

WITH ANOTHER week of the election campaign to go it would appear many candidates have already spent the €30,000 maximum set by law on promoting their candidacy. Indeed, it would be no surprise if many have already exceeded the amount approved by the legislature a few weeks ago in order to maintain a level playing field.

The legal ceiling on campaign spending has always existed so as not to give an unfair advantage to wealthy candidates as well as to discourage candidates from making deals with financial backers, but it was considered unrealistically low. Therefore, the law was amended, increasing the maximum spending on an individual campaign, but the amount still seems unrealistically low, given what is being spent.

One candidate, as part of his campaign, staged two pop concerts by the ultra-popular Cypriot singer Michalis Hadjiyiannis, with a cheap admission fee. His companies sponsored the events, which must have cost the organiser more than €30,000. Then there are the billboards, leaflets and big cocktail parties, to which everyone is invited.

What were legislators thinking when they came up with the €30,000 maximum? Surely double or triple this amount would have been more realistic, given past experience? But deputies wanted to maintain the pretence they were not overspending on their campaign, so they agreed to a low figure. Instead they left enough loop-holes in the law governing election spending so they could spend as much as they liked.

Chief Returning Officer Lazaros Savvides pointed out the weakness in the law. For instance, the law did not stipulate a methodology for calculating election expenses – if a candidate were sponsored by a third party would this not be calculated as his expense?  What if he failed to list all his spending? What if some payments were made under the table, how would the election service know the expenses account submitted was correct?

The biggest loop-hole is time. Candidates have been paying for billboards for weeks but, technically speaking, they officially submitted their candidacy on May 3. Does money spent on campaigning before May 3 not count as election spending because, officially, they were not candidates then? It is this legalistic nonsense our deputies like to hide behind in order to maintain the pretence that everything is done by the book, when quite clearly it is not.

It would have been far more honest if there were no attempt to regulate election spending by law. It only shows up many past and future legislators as having no respect for the law. And the idea that the spending ceiling ensures fairness is a mockery, as nobody sticks to it.



(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.



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