On Thursday, representatives from the four Alliance parties stuck together to vote down a motion from the opposition up for consideration in the Riksdag’s Committee on the Constitution (Konstitutionsutskottet – KU) which sought legislation to regulate financial contributions to Swedish political parties.
“It’s embarrassing for Sweden. We have a reputation for openness, but on this issue we’re lagging way behind other countries,” Green Party spokesperson Peter Eriksson told The Local following Thursday’s vote.
Eriksson’s Green Party, along with the Left Party and Social Democrats have pushed for increased transparency in political party funding since the election campaign. While the Social Democrats had previously opposed such efforts, the party joined the other centre-left parties in making a campaign promise to work toward regulating private donations to political parties if elected.
“We put forward the motion in order to reduce the risk for corruption. Nearly all western democracies have some sort of legislation in place. It’s not good to have people paying for political favours,” said Eriksson.
“We think it’s important to have these transactions happen out in the open so the media and the public can make their own judgments” about whether or not political donors may be unduly influencing politicians, he added.
The proposal voted down on Thursday would have required parties to make public the names of people or organisations that made political donations of larger than 20,000 kronor ($2,850).
It was discussed as part of a broader bill calling for deep cuts in the budget allocation for Swedish government offices’ operations. As the spending bill also included provisions concerning the public financing of political parties in Sweden, the consideration from Eriksson regarding private financing was also on the table.
The Moderate Party and Christian Democrats have long opposed the regulation of private donations to political parties, arguing that exposing donors would undermine their right to confidentiality.
In addition, the far-right Sweden Democrats have argued against regulating party financing, citing security concerns.
Historically, the level of private donations has varied widely among Sweden’s main political parties. According to annual reports from 2006, the Moderate Party collected roughly 30 million kronor in gifts from private individuals, while the Social Democrats registered 3.4 million kronor in private funding.
The Christian Democrats reported private donations of 550,000 kronor, while the Green Party reported 160,000 kronor, and the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) claimed it received 100,000 kronor from private donations.
The Left Party and Centre Party, on the other hand, reported receiving no money from individuals in 2006.
During the 2010 election campaign and in the weeks leading up to the committee vote, both the Liberal Party and Centre Party had signaled their willingness to support the regulation of political party donations.
Had the two parties joined forces with the three centre-right parties, there would have been enough votes in the Riksdag for the measure to pass.
But in the end, both parties lined up behind their Alliance partners in voting against the proposal in the committee, effectively ending Eriksson’s hopes of introducing new political funding legislation.
“I’m disappointed. There is actually a majority in the Riksdag in support of regulation, but two parties have chosen instead to join the Moderates and support a rejection of the motion,” said Eriksson.
“It doesn’t look like it’s going to be possible to pass any legislation this year, but we still plan to push the issue.”
Despite Thursday’s vote, the Liberal Party’s Karin Granbom Ellison told The Local that her party also plans to push for more openness in how Swedish political parties are funded.
“But today was just not the right time to take that step,” she said, adding that her party would like more time to discuss the issue before pushing for legislation in the Riksdag.
Granbom Ellison, who sits on the constitution committee, also pointed out that the proposal put forward by the opposition only covered financial donations, while leaving out other types of support often given to political parties.
“We also want to look at indirect support, for example the work that the LO trade union does often does on behalf of the Social Democrats,” she said.
Granbom Ellison also explained that the Liberals’ decision was also influenced by the fact that the Moderates and Christian Democrats don’t support regulating private donations.
“It’s important that the Alliance have more time to discuss this internally,” she said.
“We will continue to work for broad oversight [of political donations], but two of our partners aren’t ready to take that step.”