What lies beneath: Switzerland’s opaque politicial donations

Reto Locher is a Scientific Researcher at Transparency International Switzerland. Following a new TI-Switzerland policy paper, he highlights the worrying opacity that surrounds Swiss political finance.

On the face of it, Swiss voters get a pretty good deal. With referendums held as often as four times a year, Swiss citizens don’t just elect their politicians, they also direct their policy.

Below the surface, things look a little different. According to a new report by Transparency International Switzerland, an opaque system of political financing is threatening to undermine voter rights. Along with Sweden, Switzerland is the only European country that has no binding rules to regulate political donations. Despite its tradition of open policy-making, political finance remains a black box, devoid of any transparency. When voters go out to cast their vote in a referendum or election, they can only speculate about the influence of companies and wealthy individuals on Swiss national politics.

Transparency International Switzerland is demanding a comprehensive set of political finance regulations. Targeting both the funding of regional and national political parties and the donations made to electoral and voting-committees,  the report recommends increased donor transparency, payment caps and independent control mechanisms.Furthermore, the private economic and professional interests of parliamentary members, must be made more transparent than they are at present. In particular all compensation received from these additional mandates should be declared.

Reform is needed urgently. As long as political finance regulations remain at their current standard, Switzerland is no more than a banana republic when it comes to the funding of political actors.

For further information consult our policy paper (in German only)

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