In an opinion piece published on Thursday in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper, Moderate party secretary Sofia Arkelsten, announced that the party would publish the names of individual donors who gave 20,000 kronor ($3,300) or more to the party per year.
While calling the current debate about transparency in party financing “justified”, Arkelsten said the Moderates were nevertheless not prepared to support formal regulation of party financing, despite the fact that a majority of political parties in the Riksdag support such a move.
Instead, writes Arkelsten, the Moderates would prefer Sweden’s political parties come to an agreement on voluntary regulations and plan to invite other parties into a dialogue about the matter.
“We need to discuss our system for party financing in a constructive and open manner. The goal should be to find a solution together that has broad support,” she writes.
Arkelsten laid out three principles that the Moderates want to use as a basis for further discussion about party financing: openness, voluntariness, and voter secrecy.
She explained that the debate about party financing in Sweden must be seen in light of the fact that the bulk of parties’ financing comes from public money.
According to Arkelsten, her party doesn’t accept money from companies or organisations, and in 2009 received an average donation of 770 kronor from 2,500 individuals.
She added that, while donations from individuals to the Moderate Party has been one major point of contention in discussions about party financing, the unpaid and unaccounted support provided to the Social Democrats from the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (Landsorganisationen – LO) also needs to be addressed.
Now that the Moderates have agreed to be more open about their donors, Arkelsten urged the Social Democrats to make a similar move.
“When we Moderates now want to do our part in this way, I expect that the same thing will also happen within the Social Democrats,” she writes.
“Not least by making it possible for LO members to refuse to support the Social Democrats, but also by accounting for the unpaid work that LO contributes to the party. Now it’s time to deliver.”
The Moderates opening on party financing comes following renewed criticism of Sweden by the Council of Europe for its lack of transparency into how the country’s political parties are financed.
Two years ago, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), first urged Sweden to implement seven measures to improve transparency into party financing.
In a new report published on April 1st of this year, GRECO sharpened its language, citing the “complete lack of any concrete move” on the matter as “striking”.
The anti-corruption body concludes that the “blatant non-compliance with the recommendations” renders Sweden’s response to GRECO’s recommendations “globally unsatisfactory”.
The Christian Democrats voiced support for the 20,000 kronor limit for making individual donors public, finding that it strikes an appropriate balance between openness and respect for voter secrecy.
“A proposal in this direction is well worth considering,” Christian Democrat party secretary Acko Ankarberg Johansson in a statement.
“In deliberations between the parties, a proposal must also be included stipulating that LO support for the Social Democrats also be made public.”
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.
In December, MPs from the four parties of the centre-right Alliance government voted down a proposal that would have required parties to make public the names of people or organisations that made political donations of larger than 20,000 kronor.