THE CLAUSE THAT STARTED IT
NEW section 158 A for insertion:
The ruling party and the opposition party may receive fund from the State to maintain their party machineries and the amount shall be determined by the Government in consultation with the Election Commission.
The debate on the proposed amendments to the Election Act saw a long and prolonged debate on the State Funding of Political Parties at the National Council today. Differing view points were raised by members; some raising issues of ‘legality’ and a few others concurring the need for intervention by the State and going on to say that support be extended to all and any registered political parties.
THE CLAUSE THAT IS AT THE CENTER OF IT
Article 15 – Political Parties
4. A political party shall be registered by the Election Commission on its satisfying the qualifications and requirements set out hereinafter, that:
(d) It does not accept money or any assistance other than those contributions made by its registered members,and the amount or value shall be fixed by the Election Commission;
(e) It does not receive money or any assistance from foreign sources, be it governmental, non-governmental,private organizations or from private parties or individuals;
Repeatedly under focus was Article 15 which deals with political parties under section 4 (d) of the Constitution as shown above and became the reason for not being able to discuss the possibility of State Funding of political parties. While there was evident acceptance that the situation of political as portrayed may need some form of intervention, because inferences of the clause renders it questionable to support the amendment, supporting it would mean violating the Constitution. Also, an earlier resolution that questioned the legality of State Funding when it was proposed for the first time was referred to. However, it also needs to be understood that just as laws enacted by parliament can be re-viewed by the same parliament, resolutions can also be re-visited. Therefore, this reasoning does not in my opinion hold water. The key to the debate lies therefore, in the interpretation of the particular clause.
The other side of the argument was primarily based on the premise of omission of specifics of the State not being allowed to fund political parties other than election funds. Additionally, the need for political parties to be able to sustain given the small member base with even smaller capacity to contribute as donations to parties rendering loyalty to bigger supporters, compromising good governance was another repeatedly submitted argument. However, an additional adage was that rather then the funding be directed to the two parties in parliament, the support to be extended to all registered political parties with pre-requites set and the Election Commission, just as in the case of the election fund, be made responsible.
The House will re-convene on Thursday and will continue the debate. A committee constituted as per the directive of the Chairperson met soon after and will submit the summary of it’s discussion then.