Votes for sale

Home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst took about two minutes to tear up a committee’s recommendations on political party funding.

The committee is concerned about the dwindling number of people who are members of, or who support, political parties.
Its solution? To pander to the populist movements launched by Geert Wilders and Rita Verdonk and to allow parties which don’t have any actual members to benefit from government subsidies as well.
To do so, they would have to publish their donor lists – something which such maverick parties are not exactly keen to do. After all, what the committee appears to have forgotten is that Wilders and Verdonk like keeping their donors secret. It could damage people’s reputations if it was revealed they support a party which wants an end to immigration from Muslim countries – as Wilders does.
His party, the PVV, is a one-man operation. He runs it, he is the only member and he calls the shots. Try and get in touch with someone from the PVV and you have little option but to mail Geert directly.
So even if the party has masses and masses of support among the population at large, the PVV is very much a one-man operation. And Geert is very keen to play the martyr by asking for donations because he does not get any government help. Verdonk is not much better.
How to fund political parties is always going to be a thorny issue. The fundamentalist Christian party SGP came under heavy fire and eventually lost some of its government money because of its reprehensible attitude to women.
But offering public cash in return for transparency is a non-starter. Ter Horst said no because she is already working on her own legislation which would allow private donations of up to €25,000 by name, and anonymous contributions of just €700.
But without any members, Wilders and Verdonk will not have to comply with that legislation either. As long as they are riding eye in the opinion polls, they are quite happy with the status quo.

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