Czech MPs pass bill on direct presidential elections campaign spending

The draft law will now go to the upper house, the Senate, were it is also expected to pass by a comfortable majority

As expected, the lower house of parliament has approved a bill setting caps on spending in the direct presidential elections, at Kč 40 million per candidate for the first round and Kč 10 million if a run-off second round is necessary.

The draft law will now go to the upper house, the Senate, were it is also expected to pass by a comfortable majority. It also sets out provisions to ensure transparency in funding, and requires candidates to establish election committees.

The bill further requires candidates to publish their accounts on the internet within two months of the election and submit figures the Senate mandate and immunity committee.

In the event of suspected violations, it would be up to the courts to make ruling; fines for breaching the regulations could result in a fine of 150 percent of the amount of the irregular funding or amount in excess of the spending caps.

The cabinet in February approved a draft constitutional law on direct presidential elections, which are due to be held in February 2013, a month before President Václav Klaus’ second and final five-year term ends.

In order to stand in the election, a candidate must have the support of 20 MPs, 10 senators, or the backing of 50,000 citizens via a petition.

Opinion polls show Jan Fischer (unaffiliated), who served as prime minister in a caretaker government in mid-2009, with a comfortable lead, followed by Czech-American economist Jan Švejnar (who lost to Klaus in the last contest) and former Social Democrat (ČSSD) prime minister Miloš Zeman.