Deputy-Ombudsman Maija Sakslin finds it wrong that the City of Kokkola gave electoral support to some parliamentarians or their groups.
According to a complaint received by the Ombudsman, the City of Kokkola had supported three Representatives (members of parliament) in the 2007 general election by purchasing art from them. Other candidates did not receive support.
The City had bought two paintings, worth €1,000 in total, from a Representative and one painting worth €700 from each of two associations. In addition, the City had bought a set of pictures, worth €300, from a support group.
The decision to make the acquisitions had been made by the Mayor. The City took the view in its report that it had not discriminated against other candidates, because no other instances had offered gift goods for procurement. In addition, the City emphasised that the money had not been paid without receiving anything in return.
What was involved was electoral support
In the opinion of the Deputy-Ombudsman, the City's explanation does not change the fact that what was involved in the paintings acquisitions was support given to some candidates election campaigns in the sense of electoral funding.
It is established legal praxis that the remit of a municipality does not include supporting political activities. In addition, the Local Government Act imposes an obligation on a municipality to treat its residents on a basis of equality. A municipality must also in its decision making observe the legal principles, one of which is equal treatment, that are enshrined in the Administrative Procedure Act.
Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin takes the view that the City of Kokkola acted improperly when it gave electoral support to some parliamentarians or their support groups. In her assessment, the blameworthiness of the City's action is not lessened by the fact that only the supported candidates or their support groups offered paintings for sale.
She believes that the City should have refrained from granting support.
Election funding must not be accepted from a public instance
The 2007 Act did not yet contain an explicit prohibition on candidates and their support groups accepting election funding from municipalities or other public organisations.
The Election Funding Act that came into force in 2009 prohibits a candidate or his or her support group from accepting support for an election campaign from the State or a municipality. An equivalent provision was added to the Act on Political Parties in 2010.
Because of these legislative changes, Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin considers it sufficient to draw the attention of the City of Kokkola to her opinion concerning the remit of a municipality and its obligation to treat its residents and those who have dealings with its administration on a basis of equality.
Additional info will be provided by Legal Adviser Ulla-Maija Lindström, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3355.