Prime Minister Borissov Suggests Reducing State Subsidy to Political Parties to One Lev
The Council of Ministers has submitted to Parliament on Wednesday evening a bill reducing the state subsidy paid to political parties which win more than one per cent at the last parliamentary elections, to one lev, from the current eleven leva, per every valid vote, Prime Minister and leader of the ruling GERB party Boyko Borissov said in Parliament on Thursday. According to the bill, the reduction is to take effect as of July 1.
The move comes after a month ago TV talk show host Slavi Trifonov showed that the state subsidies to parties paid out in 2018 were 6.5 million leva in excess of the amount that should have been provided. This put "the price" of a valid vote won at the latest parliamentary elections at 13.23 leva instead of the legally established standard of 11 leva.
Borissov said that money that is going to be saved will go towards the construction of kindergartens and nurseries.
The Prime Minister also said that his party intends to propose scrapping VAT for books "because education has always been a priority" for GERB.
In the reasoning of the bill about the reduced party subsidy, the Council of Ministers says that the suggested reduction will satisfy the public expectations about less budget spending for political parties. The money that is going to be spared in the second half of 2019 if the bill is passed would amount to 14.6 million leva.
"We have heard enough about populism. Eventually, things will end up like in the Czech Republic - the billionaires and oligarchs will rule, and the parties will be owned by business people," Borissov said, explaining how GERB decided to propose reducing the subsidy amount. "Let's see now how the parties will fare in the coming years, how they will pay for media coverage, opinion polls, political analyses and everything else," Borissov said. The Prime Minister recalled how he ran in the elections for Sofia mayor "without a single penny and without a party," and noted the assistance of the Hanns Seidel and Konrad Adenauer foundations in the "structuring" of GERB.
Borissov said he was against the other demands for reducing VAT. The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) proposed reducing to five per cent the VAT on milk, meat and flour products. Borissov asked how come given that they were so long in power the BSP, and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, did not do so? "How come they are saying there is money in the state coffers now, and there was not when they were in power?" he asked, arguing that apparently, "GERB are a good steward, collect a lot of budget revenue from the fight against contraband trade, the revenue agencies are working, so that the party can move a bill to reduced the party subsidy to one lev," Borissov said.
Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said that he has always stood by the view that the parties should have a sensible and predictable means of funding "so as not to become dependent". "Apparently, however, the political system is still immature so that it is very easy to resort to populist moves and turn the public attitudes against this model," Goranov said.
The issue about reducing the state subsidy to political parties was one of the questions in a 2016 referendum organized on an initiative of TV talk show host Slavi Trifonov who a month ago made the disclosure about the overpaid amount in party subsidies. Back in 2019, the majority of the voters supported the suggestion for cutting the party subsidies but the referendum failed to achieve an outcome to make this compulsory. After that, both GERB and the BSP stated their supported the idea to reduce the subsidy, but this failed to materialize.
In the past two years Parliament voted twice on keeping the current subsidy amount of 11 leva per valid vote.
Following the disclosure of Trifonov's findings, the Supreme Administrative Prosecuting Magistracy conducted a probe, concluding evidence existed for a crime committed by officials of the Finance Ministry. Goranov and GERB argue that no crime was committed in the payment of the party subsidies in 2018.