4 April 2006
Since 1988, several Acts have been passed to provide a legal framework for financing political parties in France. The aim has been fourfold: to ensure that the bulk of the funding comes from the public purse, increase the transparency of the parties’ accounts (Acts of 11 March 1988 and 15 January 1990), prohibit donations from businesses (Act of 19 January 1995) and limit campaign spending.
Political parties in France are today funded in two ways: by donations from individuals and by taxpayers.
1. Ceiling on individual donations; business donations prohibited
The policy is to encourage people to become paid-up members of political parties, with a tax rebate on their subscriptions. Individual donations are capped at €7,500 (€4,600 during election campaigns). Donations to political parties enjoy the same tax rebate as subscriptions to political parties. Donations of more than €150 must be made by cheque and a receipt issued. Despite the tax incentive, contributions by individuals have traditionally remained limited. To varying degrees, parties impose levies on those of their members who occupy an elected office. These levies generally exceed donations from individuals. (Parties can have other sources of private income, but these are severely limited by increasingly restrictive legislation: income from commercial and/or industrial activities, legacies.) Since the Act of 19 January 1995, businesses have no longer been allowed to fund political parties (article 16) or contribute to the election campaigns of one or more candidates through direct or indirect donations (article 4).
2. Public purse the main source of money. Annual two-part political party funding system
Only parties which have presented candidates in at least 50 constituencies and obtained at least 1% of the votes cast in the previous general election are eligible for money under this two-part system:
a) An initial part is shared between these parties in proportion to the number of votes each received in the previous general election (Act of 20 January 1993).
b) A second part is shared between these parties in proportion to the number of elected representatives each has in the two parliamentary assemblies. Members of the National Assembly and Senate must join a political "group" in Parliament for their party to receive this second part of the aid.
Moreover, under the June 2000 Act on gender parity, if a party fails to comply with the requirement for parity, its State funding is reduced.
A political party which has emerged since the previous general election is eligible for a lump sum contribution from the public purse (Act of 19 January 1995), provided it has received, in a twelve-month period, donations from at least 10,000 people (including a minimum of 500 elected representatives) totalling at least €150,000.
The State also grants political parties other facilities which can be regarded as indirect funding: outside election campaign periods (special rules apply during campaigns), political Groups in the National Assembly or Senate have the right to a certain amount of air time, allowing them to broadcast on public radio stations and television channels: similarly, the State grants political parties some tax rebates (reduced rate corporation tax) on some of their own income (from renting out their buildings and undeveloped sites, for example).
Finally, after an election the State reimburses a proportion of a party’s campaign expenses according to the percentage of the total votes cast it has obtained.
In 2004, France had around 230 registered political parties. Six of them received 90% of the public funding: Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), Parti Socialiste (PS), Front National (FN), Union pour la Démocratie Française (UDF), Parti Communiste français (PCF), Verts (Green Party). In 2003, the French State paid €73 million to 66 political parties and groups, including 34 in Overseas France. The UMP (526 National Assembly deputies) initially received the most aid with €33.4 million, but this was cut by almost €4 million for failure to comply with the Act on parity; the PS (235 deputies elected) received €19.6 million; the FN (no deputies elected) €4.6 million; the UDF (61 deputies elected) €4.3 million; the PCF (41 deputies elected) €3.7 million. The same amount of money is scheduled to be allocated in 2006, €33 million for the "initial part" and €40 million for the "second part" (Order 2006-86 of 30 January 2006).
3. Transparency increased
a) Control and publication of parties’ accounts: a National Campaign Accounts and Political Funding Commission (CNCCFP - Commission Nationale des Comptes de Campagne et des Financements politiques) was established by the Act of 15 January 1990. To obtain public funding, parties must keep accounts, get them audited by two auditors and submit them to the CNCCFP, which scrutinizes them and publishes them in the Journal Officiel (www.cnccfp.fr).
b) Transparency of elected representatives’ personal wealth: on their election and at the end of their term of office, all members of the government, deputies, MEPs and local elected representatives must submit to the Commission for Transparency in Politics a sworn statement giving details of all their property. This Commission checks that they have not gained financial or other material benefits for themselves as a result of their political mandate/public office (Act of 11 March 1988).
4. Expenditure limited:
To level the playing field for candidates, a ceiling has been imposed on their spending.
In European elections, the ceiling is €1.15 million per party. In the 2007 presidential election, it will be €15.5 million per candidate and €20.7 million for the 2 candidates in the second round. In general elections, the spending limit is €38,000 plus €0.15 per constituency resident (article L52-11 of the Electoral Code). A specific percentage is added to this amount, set in 2000, to allow for the increase in the cost of living (18% under the Order of 31 August 2005). In municipal elections, the ceiling depends on the size of the commune (municipality).
Political advertising on commercial hoardings is banned for the three months preceding the election.
French embassy in the UK: www.ambafrance-uk.org