Elections, Political Parties and Candidates
Access to election-related information is widely considered to be essential to the integrity of electoral processes in the democratic world. A comprehensive survey of relevant laws and regulations, carried out in 2003 by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), found that, out of the 111 established and emerging democracies surveyed, sixty countries required political parties and/or their donors to disclose campaign contributions and other sources of income. These included, at the time, at least twenty-seven member states of the Council of Europe (not all members were included in the study). Fifty-three of the surveyed countries required disclosure of political party expenditure. With a few exceptions, the information disclosed by the parties, usually to a specialized government agency, can be freely accessed by the general public. In some of these countries, the RTI law can be used to access this information; in other countries, election laws regulate these issues.
Disclosure of party finances, including campaign spending and contributions, serves the important goals of protecting the integrity of the electoral process and enabling voters to make informed choices on election day on the basis of the broadest possible information, including as to the parties and candidates’ sources of funding. To further these goals and promote good practices in this area, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted in 2003 a Recommendation on Common Rules Against Corruption in the Funding of Political Parties and Electoral Campaigns. According to the Recommendation, political parties should be required regularly to make public their accounts, or a summary thereof, including records of received donations and all campaign expenditures (Articles 10-13).
The European Union (EU) has adopted similar disclosure conditionality for EU political parties seeking EU funding. Under Article 6 of EU Regulation 2004/2003, an applicant party must, among other conditions:
a. publish its revenue and expenditure and a statement of its assets and liabilities annually;
b. declare its sources of funding by providing a list specifying the donors and the donations received from each donor, with the exception of donations not exceeding EUR 500….
Courts in a number of countries have granted citizens access to information about political party finances and other election-related information, sometimes in the absence of any explicit statutory scheme. Courts have ordered disclosure of information about campaign contributions (Canada); bank account information of a political party, where there was unequivocal evidence that it had misused private funds (Costa Rica); the background of candidates, including their assets and any pending criminal investigations (India); the management and use of any public funds (Indonesia); the salary and other income of political party leaders (Mexico); and the terms of an agreement made by parties to form a coalition government (Israel). These cases are described at greater length below. We welcome receipt of copies of, or links to, the court judgments, or further information about the facts of these cases.
 IDEA, Funding of Political Parties and Election Campaigns (2003), pp. 182, 189-191.
You will find detailed country information that is not regularly updated in our Archive.