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Foul-mouthed MPs might face fines

Fritz Neugebauer has started another attempt to introduce a system of fees for abusive parliament delegates (MPs).

Neugebauer, the vice president of the parliament, suggested to finally get the ball rolling in the debate which was started around half a year ago. The member of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) told the Kurier he planned to inform the five parliamentary factions about a possible system shortly.

Neugebauer said his intention was to charge MPs 500 to 1,000 Euros for insulting members of rivalling factions in speeches. He said the German Bundestag’s scheme of penalties could work as a role model system for the Austrian parliament.

Political analysts see Neugebauer’s latest attempt to penalise foul-mouthed MPs in connection with the worsening image of politicians and parties in Austria. The country’s established parties, the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the ÖVP, fail to fight decreasing membership figures and stagnating poll performances – which follow a string of losses in elections.

The Greens have not benefited so far from the rising scepticism concerning nuclear technology. The left-wing faction also struggles to win over disappointed voters who previously supported one of the SPÖ-ÖVP government coalition factions. The populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) does better in this regard – despite the lack of sophisticated ideas how the economic crisis could be solved.

SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann and ÖVP Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger recently agreed to introduce a reform of the Austrian political financing system. Faymann said that, under the planned amendment, political movements must ensure full transparency regarding donations of 5,000 Euros and more. The Greens said 500 Euros should be the limit while the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) suggested that all information must be made public concerning all transactions higher than 1,000 Euros.

Austria’s parties must inform the Audit Office (RH) about donations of 7,260 Euros and more under current regulations. However, there is no duty to disclose who transferred the sums. The SPÖ received around 17.2 million Euros this way since 2000. The ÖVP said it was supported with 11.8 million Euros in the past 12 years. The FPÖ declared donations of 1.4 million Euros while the BZÖ reported a sum of 200,000. The Green Party claimed it received only donations lower than the current limit.

Former Green Party European Parliament member (MEP) Johannes Voggenhuber – who engages in online movement Mein Österreich (My Austria) warned regarding the upcoming finalisation of the government’s preparations of a transparency package: "We will wipe off all the make-up, and if the draft bills wear make-up as thick as a mask, we will rip off the mask."

Other planned measures are a law which prohibits the financial support of political organisations by firms in which the state holds a share of 50 per cent or more. Critics underline that such a regulation would not keep Telekom Austria (TA) from subsidising the country’s parties. The Republic of Austria owns 28.4 per cent of TA stakes – but Spindelegger wants to reduce this interest in the foreseeable future.

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