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Restrictions on election campaign financing would be most perceptible in Greater Helsinki area
The task force on party and election campaign financing chaired by Lauri Tarasti is proposing a ceiling on spending on election campaigns, both for parties and for individual candidates.
In practice, the restrictions would apply only to paid media advertising.
The content of the proposed legislation is to be finalised in negotiations among the four government parties.
The planned ceiling on spending would have the most perceptible consequences in the Greater Helsinki area, which has the largest number of candidates and where campaigning costs are the highest.
In last year’s municipal elections, the number of campaigns in excess of the proposed spending limit of EUR 10,000 for individual candidates was six in Turku and three in Tampere.
In Helsinki, the number of major campaigns was considerably higher.
The National Coalition Party and the Swedish People’s Party oppose a ceiling.
Among the government parties, the Centre Party and the Green League as well as the largest opposition party the Social Democratic Party are all in favour of the proposed ceiling.
Some National Coalition Party MPs argue that EUR 10,000 may be a sufficient sum for a large-scale campaign in Central Finland, while in Helsinki it would not be enough.
Jan Vapaavuori (National Coalition Party) argues that such ceilings could have a greater impact on the internal competition between a party’s candidates than on the relative strength of various parties.
Party Secretary Taru Tujunen (National Coalition Party) considers that the incumbent MPs are bound to get more publicity, which is not fair for new candidates.
The proposal completed on Tuesday by Tarasti’s task force on party and election campaign financing has also met with criticism from the commercial media and constitutional experts.
Mikael Pentikäinen, Chairman of the Finnish Newspapers Association and President of Sanoma News, also discusssed the aspect of freedom of speech.
”A society does not develop unless it has an opportunity to enter into a dialogue on the content of politics and the characters of influential persons”, Pentikäinen said in his statement.
In an interview with the Finnish News Agency (STT), professor emeritus of constitutional law Ilkka Saraviita also said that the planned ceiling on spending on election campaigns is problematic when it comes to freedom of speech.
According to Saraviita, the proposed campaign limits are also related to the right to vote in political elections. This right is one of the civil rights.
”There are no precedents. The question is difficult and not easy to interpret, but it will be up to the Constitutional Law Committee to handle the issue in due time”, Saraviita concluded.