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Establishment of political parties
The legal basis for forming political parties is that Political Parties Act 2012.
The formation of political parties in Austria is free and relatively easy. This means that groups can found a political party, provided that there is nothing constitutionally against it (e.g. prohibition of founding National Socialist organizations). The only requirement is that parties adopt statutes that must be published on the Internet. These statutes are with Federal Ministry of the Interior to deposit so that the group acquires legal personality.
Financing political parties
The multifaceted factual, information and public relations work of a political party requires a large amount of staff and costs money. The large financial expenditure cannot be covered with donations and membership fees alone. In order to prevent the dependency on donors or lobbies, the parties are supported by tax revenues. This contains basic provisions on the amount and distribution of public funding, but also on the limitation of election advertising expenditure and the admissibility of donations Political Parties Act 2012. That Political Party Promotion Act 2012 regulates the federal government's promotion of political parties in detail. In 2018, around 29.9 million euros were spent on promoting political parties.
Promotion of political parties at the federal level
To calculate the annual funding for the political parties at the federal level, the number of those eligible to vote for the National Council is 4.60*) Euros multiplied. First of all, each party that is represented in the National Council with five members (club strength) receives a basic amount of 218,000*) Euro. The remaining funds will be distributed among the political parties represented in the National Council in proportion to the votes obtained in the last National Council election (cf. § 1 Political Party Promotion Act 2012).
Parties that are not represented in the National Council but received more than 1 percent of the valid votes in a National Council election are entitled to a grant of 2.50 in the election year*) Euros per vote achieved.
Special political support for political activities in the European Parliament
After a European election, those parties that are subsequently represented in the European Parliament are entitled to funding. For this purpose, the number of those eligible to vote in the European elections is 2*) Euros multiplied. This amount is distributed among the parties in proportion to the votes they have received. However, each party is only entitled to the amount that it actually spent on the types of election advertising expenditure specified in the law.
Election advertising expenditure: reimbursement abolished, restriction introduced
The separate reimbursement of election advertising costs was abolished in 2012. At the same time, a restriction on election advertising expenditure was introduced: each party is allowed a maximum of 7 for election advertising on the occasion of a National Council election or European election between the deadline and election day*) Spend millions of euros. In this maximum amount are also expenses of the individual candidates, which are over 15,000*) Euros, as well as expenses of committees of persons (which also have to register with the independent party transparency senate). What counts as expenses for election advertising is precisely defined in the law.
If the maximum permissible amount is exceeded, fines are staggered according to the amount of the excess (Section 10 (8) of the Political Parties Act 2012).
Political education and party academies
The individual parties in the National Council also maintain their own institutions (academies) with the aim of providing civic education. The academies are based on the Federal Act on the Promotion of Political Education and Journalism. In 2018, this funding totaled around 10.5 million euros.
Publication of income and expenses
The party financing should be transparent. Therefore, the individual parties must keep precise records of the appropriate use of the funds. Sworn auditors monitor the records annually, their results are published in the official gazette of the Wiener Zeitung. In addition, the parties are obliged to publish an account of the nature of their income and expenditure. It is also checked by auditors and is also subject to the control of the Court of Auditors. In the statement of accounts, the Party donations be shown in an attachment.
Limits on donations
With the novella Federal Law Gazette I No. 55/2019 of the Political Parties Act 2012 - in addition to lowering the amount limits for reporting obligations and restrictions on certain donations - general maximum limits for the admissibility of granting and accepting party donations have also been introduced:
Donations to a political party (including its sub-organizations) amount to a maximum of 7,500 per donor (regardless of whether natural or legal person)*) Euro allowed.
Each political party (including its territorial and non-territorial sub-organizations) may donate a maximum of 750,000 per calendar year*) Accept euros. For parties starting an election for the first time, the amount increases under certain conditions.
Individual donations must be disclosed if they amount to 2,500*) Exceed euros per year. Otherwise, the total amount of the donations that a party has received from private individuals, companies, associations and voluntary professional and business associations must be stated. Donations over 2,500*) Euros must be reported immediately. Donations to a party and its branches as well as donations to party-affiliated organizations and individual members of parliament are to be shown. (Membership fees from an amount of EUR 7,500 per calendar year must now also be shown separately, stating the name of the member and the amount.)
Donations from parties, among others, from state-affiliated companies, public corporations, non-profit organizations and foreign donors are prohibited. In addition, anonymous donations over 500*) Euros as well as cash donations over 500*) Euros are not accepted.
Inadmissible donations are to be forwarded by the party to the audit office, which in turn forwards them to institutions that serve charitable or scientific purposes.
Sanctions under the Political Parties Act 2012
As with the above-mentioned exceeding of the upper limit for election advertising expenditure, sanctions in the form of fines are also provided for a violation of provisions regarding the acceptance, expulsion or reporting of donations; also in the case of material support from a non-registered committee of persons, but also in the case of incorrect or incomplete information in the statement of accounts that has not been eliminated. The amount of the fine depends on the gravity of the offense. The independent party transparency senate is responsible for the imposition of fines.
If a party does not submit its annual report to the Court of Auditors in good time, its sponsorship will also be withheld until it is actually submitted.
*) From 2019 the law provides for an adjustment of the amounts according to the consumer price index.
Parties in the National Council, Federal Council and European Parliament
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