Jean-Philippe Vachia was appointed on July 3, 2020 president of the National Commission for Campaign Accounts and Political Funding, which was due to present its 2020 activity report on Thursday, June 10.
The 2020 election year, which featured two national ballots – municipal and senatorial – took place under exceptional circumstances due to the Covid epidemic. What consequences has this had for the commission?
Mainly, due to the postponement of the second round of municipal elections from March to June, the law has provided for a 20% increase in the ceiling for expenses incurred by candidates for the second round. An increase which is also planned, for the same reasons, for the accounts of the regional and departmental campaign. Finally, only 6% of the candidates qualified for the second round used this option. This did not translate into inflation of campaign spending.
Have you noticed an increase in the number of disputes?
We had to render decisions on more than 1,700 accounts in 384 municipalities subject to electoral disputes. This represents a 47% increase in litigation compared to 2014. Not all grievances were necessarily of a financial nature. One of the most often invoked concerned the abusive use, according to the applicant, of the means of the municipality by the outgoing elected official.
There was in particular what could be called health expenses, such as the distribution of masks and gel. It is a subject that is becoming common. When it comes to outfitting campaign teams, there is nothing to say. But many local elected officials, mayors, made distributions, either from the means of the municipality, or from acquisitions made by the departmental council or by the regional council. The question for us was whether it was election propaganda or not. It is only in cases where there has been an obvious confusion of genres that we have been led to take sanctions, which may go as far as rejection.
What are the main legislative, regulatory and jurisprudential developments that you observe?
They mainly stem from the law of September 15, 2017 on confidence in political life. This concerns first of all loans from natural persons, which are increasing in the financing of electoral campaigns. Since 2017, these loans have been supervised, in particular loans at preferential rates, and we monitor them to ensure effective repayment and prevent them from turning into donations. de facto. This applies to candidates for elections but also to political parties. The law also introduced additional requirements in terms of justification of bank loans, these borrowing possibilities being reduced either from European Union banks plus Norway and Switzerland, or from a political party.
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