Funds ruling 'could spell the end for party politics'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 12:00am

A court ruling questioning funding arrangements between political parties and their election candidates could cripple the operations of parties, politicians and academics said yesterday.

Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (ADPL) chairman Frederick Fung Kin-kee said Monday's judgment by District Court Judge Li Zong-er would have a serious impact on political parties.

He said most parties made donations or loans to candidates on the basis that they sought to influence which constituency they ran in. 'If what he says is correct, parties cannot operate any more,' Mr Fung said.

On Monday, Judge Li ruled the ADPL was not entitled to claim back $325,000 in funds from two former members because the money was illegally distributed. He said when the party sought to recover the money, it became clear it amounted to a loan, not a legal donation.

Judge Li also challenged the common practice of legislators making monthly contributions to their parties after being given funds for campaigning.

The ADPL is seeking advice on whether to appeal.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, City University's applied social studies lecturer, said the problem arose because the Government had not given due recognition to political parties when drafting electoral laws. He believed pro-democracy parties without much money would be affected most if they could only give donations rather than loans to candidates.

A solicitor with political affiliations said parties could still finance candidates if they were not forced to make monthly contributions: 'I think in future, parties can only say the money is a donation rather than a loan. They may require the candidates to repay the money in some way, but there is nothing they can do if the candidates refuse.'

Democrat vice-chairman Lee Wing-tat said the party was studying the judgment to see if arrangements should be reviewed. A spokesman for the Constitutional Affairs Bureau said officials were studying the judgment.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption said it would seek more details about the case from the Department of Justice.