Moderates reverse on transparency question
The conservative Moderate Party, the largest of the four parties in Sweden’s governing alliance, has announced a reversal of its earlier stand against revealing the names of private donors to its political activities. The conservative Moderates, together with the Christian Democrats, have until now been the most outspoken opponents of disclosing the names of private donors, saying that it would violate contributors’ privacy and undermine their right to cast secret election ballots.
But Party Chair Sofia Arkelsten said Thursday that contributions of more than SEK 20,000 (slightly more than USD 3,000) annually will be made public in the future.
Sweden is one of just a handful of European countries that does not have any laws requiring political parties to say where they get their financial contributions from. The Council of Europe has been after Sweden for a couple of years now to fix this, and now, the conservative Moderate party, the largest of the four-party ruling government, has come forward saying they will be more open about where they get their money from – and that the other parties should too.
Arkelsten explains that a large portion of money that political parties get in Sweden comes from tax money. But some of it comes from elsewhere. She says that in 2009, her party got about four percent of its money from donations given by private people. (Arkelsten says her party does not accept corporate donations.)
Now that the Moderates have changed their minds and are ready to make the names of their private donors public, Arkelsten says she also wants to come to an agreement with the other parties to be more open too.
"We're not suggesting legislation right now, we're suggesting an agreement, and we would prefer that," she says, reasoning that Sweden is different from many other countries that have laws governing this, because so much of Sweden's political parties money comes from taxpayers.
Besides Sweden, only Malta, San Marino and Switzerland are the other European countries that don't have laws requiring political parties to reveal where their financial contributinos come from.
Arkelsten says Sweden's political parties have long been discussing more transparency, because of what she sees as two main issues: money that private individuals give to parties and support that the center-left Social Democrats get from the labor movement.
"The Social Democrats," says Arkelsten, "should be open too, when it comes to the support they get from the labor organization (the Swedish Trade Union Confederation)." Arkelsten says that this amounts to "vast amounts of money and also unpaid labor" and says that it "is not open."
But the Social Democrats' new party secretary, Carin Jämtin, disagrees, saying that her party is already transparent.
"If (Arkelsten) would have read our annual report," Jämtin tells Radio Sweden, "she would have seen that we are already putting into that report the cash contributions given by the labor unions but also others – private persons as well as organizations – but we are also putting in that annual report if – and I'm really stressing if – there are any kind of in-kind support."
"But I'm very very disappointed with is that she's closing the door on having a law adopted by Parliament," says Jämtin. "There is already an agreement in Parliament on how to do this kind of reporting, but the Council of Europe has actually suggested that we should have a law in Sweden, as in almost every other European country, and that is the way to go forward, I would say."