Efforts to improve the implementation of legislation in Croatia

09. March 2012.

Efforts are being made to impose adequate sanctions to the parties that have violated regulations, and to give the issue of party funding the proper place in public legal and political sphere.

After the State Audit Office detected a series of irregularities and violations while conducting financial audit of political parties and independent representatives for 2010, GONG has called upon the State Attorney's Office (DORH) to act in its official mandate and initiate offence proceedings against political parties and individuals responsible for the violations. Since the political parties taking part in former government have received a qualified opinion for their financial activities, and since DORH has so far never initiated a procedure for determining political parties‘ responsibility in illegal financing and activities, except once in the case of the HDZ, GONG has requested information on DORH's reaction to irregularities revealed in the Report on Conducted Supervision of Financing of Election Campaign During 4 December 2011 Parliamentary Election, which was sent to DORH by the State Election Commission (DIP). According to the DIP report, some political parties and independent candidates did not fulfill their obligation to publicly publish reports on financing of election campaign which are prescribed by law, meaning that they violated the provision of the Law with regard to the amount and type of donations, which is criminally liable. On two occasions, DORH did inform GONG on offence proceedings proposal against the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), as well as on the decision against initiating an offence proceedings in the case of six participants in the elections, while investigations are still underway regarding other complaints. Since political parties are the foundations of democracy, and since transparency in financing of political parties and reasonable management of public funds contribute to strengthening the confidence of public in political parties, GONG is planning to repeat the request to DORH in July 2012.

In addition, the Croatian government has accepted the Action Plan for Implementation of Global Initiative – Open Government Partnership, which Croatia is a member of, for the period 2012-2013. As a part of the initiative, Croatia has obliged itself to implement the adopted measures and activities aimed at securing a concrete progress in the area of transparency and openness of government institutions, involvement of citizens and civil society and strengthening of their role, as well as fighting corruption and using new technologies for enhancing the quality of services offered to citizens by public administration. As members of the Council of the initiative Open Government Partnership, GONG representatives have called for improvement of the Law on Financing of Political Parties and Election Campaigns, so GONG has managed to include provisions on evaluation of the law and provisions on creating pre-conditions for publicly publishing information on donors for election campaigns and for regular political activities and making it permanently available (complete Action plan of the Commission for Open Government). 

After a successful promotion and on the initiative of GONG, the Ministry of Administration has established expert working groups for amending election legislature, with GONG representative taking part. Three working groups have been established so far, one aimed at drafting the new Law on Electoral Register, one dealing with enhancing of the Law on Financing of Political Parties and Election Campaigns, and one covering somewhat wider spectrum of the electoral law: The Law on Local and Regional Governance, the Law on Referendum and other forms of personal participation in state, local and regional governments, the Law on Electing Representative Bodies of Local and Regional Government Units, the Law on Electing Municipality Majors, City Majors, District-Prefects and the Major of the City of Zagreb. By taking part in the working groups, GONG is in a position to directly push for the best legal solutions, as well as promote pro-active approach of all competent institutions, which would be based on respecting expertise, experiences and assessments of the regulations' effects, as well as ensuring an opportunity for counseling the public. In 2012, amendments and enhancements to the Law on Financing of Political Parties and Election Campaigns is expected. More on the working groups can be found here.

Article was taken from newsletter prepared by Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) in cooperation with the partner organizations GONG from Croatia, the Citizen’s Initiative MOST from Macedonia, Initiative for Progress from Kosovo, Center for Development of Serbia and Transparency International Bosnia and Herzegovina. Publication of the newsletter is part of the project ‘Money and Politics – Montenegro and region’, which is implemented with the financial support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD).