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Ombudsman Condemns New Rule on Party Funding
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 8 Jul.'08 / 17:29

Georgian Public Defender Sozar Subari has slammed the ruling-party-proposed amendment to the law that will deny six parties boycotting Parliament state funding.

Parliament passed the controversial amendment with its first hearing on July 5. The amendment, which will go into force if approved on its second and third hearings, would make the New Rights Party; Freedom Party; Movement for United Georgia; Georgia’s Way; Party of People and National Forum – all part of the opposition coalition – ineligible for the funding.

The opposition coalition has condemned the amendment as “a punitive measure” against them in retaliation for their refusal to enter Parliament. The ruling party, however, said that the amendment was “logical,” as parties refusing to represent their voters in Parliament cannot receive state funding.

Subari said in a statement on July 8 that the amendment was “a direct attack against democratic development and pluralism.”

The current law says any party clearing a 4% threshold in parliamentary elections and a 3% threshold in local self-government elections is eligible for state funding.

“The representatives of the political groups, including the politicians elected as a result of the parliamentary elections, have a full right to participate in the political life in a form they consider necessary,” Subari said. “Accordingly, the State has no right to define the form of their activities.”

Subari also said that people, who voted for the opposition coalition, had granted them “a mandate of trust” and the right to act on their behalf, including “a choice in any form of protest” [they make].

“Hence, the mentioned amendment contradicts the political will of some citizens,” he said.

Davit Usupashvili, leader of the opposition Republican Party, also called on July 8 for the proposed amendment to be dropped.

He said that the ruling party’s initiative “is political punishment” of political parties boycotting Parliament because of “ballot rigging.” The Republican Party, although it received less than 4% of votes in the May 21 parliamentary elections, will receive state funding because it cleared the 3% threshold in the 2006 local elections.

Usupashvili said the existing law on party funding - in operation since May 2007 - was developed in cooperation with the Venice Commission, which is the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional and legal issues. Hence, he said, the amendment should not be passed without an assessment by the Venice Commission. 

Meanwhile, lawmakers from the Christian-Democratic Party proposed a compromise, which would see the six opposition parties retaining most state funding but losing GEL 600 they would ordinarily receive for each MP elected. Vice-Speaker Levan Vepkhvadze of the Christian-Democratic Party explained that the parties would receive their basic funding of GEL 150,000, plus additional funding for every vote received, but would be deprived of the GEL 600 for each MP, because they have renounced their MP mandates.

The compromise was, however, rejected by the ruling party.

“Our position will remain unchanged,” MP Pavle Kublashvili from the ruling party, who is co-sponsor of the amendment, said on July 8.

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