Amendments to the law on political parties, tightening party funding regulations, went into force after being published by the state online registry of legal acts on December 29.
Posting of the document by Sakanonmdeblo Matsne on its website means that it has been signed into law by President Saakashvili, after the amendments were passed with third and final reading by the Parliament on December 28.
One of the controversial provisions of the new law is to apply new funding regulations, which among others also bans corporate funding, retroactively to the extent that parties having certain amount of money on their accounts at the time of enacting new regulations and obtained not in line with the new rules should be returned to donors.
If the funds are not returned within three days after the new regulations enter into force, that is till January 1, these donations, remaining unused and received prior to adoptions of the new legislative amendments, will be transferred into the state ownership.
On December 28 several election watchdog and legal advocacy groups called on President Saakashvili to veto these amendments, citing that this provision to apply rules retroactively was “unconstitutional.”
Also on December 28 separate, but related legislative amendments went into force; these amendments to the criminal code tighten measures against and punishment for political bribery. These amendments have also been criticized by the watchdog groups saying that the amendments “establish utterly imprudent and disproportionate sanctions.”
Another provision, which the watchdog groups said was “unconstitutional”, is the one, which imposes restrictions established for political parties also for legal entities and individuals who are directly or indirectly related to a political party, as well as on all legal entities and individuals who have business relations or other links with an openly campaigning person; among the restrictions is banning to call for vote for any electoral subjects or to refrain from voting. The watchdog groups said the provision was “unconstitutional”, because it was in essence violating freedom of expression.
Ruling party lawmakers said that to address this concern, a provision was included in the legislation according to which the restrictions set out in this law should not be used for restricting freedom of expression and against of civic activities.
Also on December 28 separate, but related legislative amendments went into force; these amendments to the criminal code tighten measures against and punishment for political bribery.
According to these amendment offering, promising and giving money, services or other benefit of any kind directly or indirectly “for the political purposes” or making any sham deals “for a purpose of evading restrictions” set by the law will be punishable with a fine or imprisonment for up to three years. The law, however, also specifies that promising voters allocation of benefits from the state budget in line with a party’s policy priorities should not be considered as bribery.
Legal entities other than political parties, engaged in illegal activities, laid out in this provision, will become subject to “liquidation”.
It has also been made an offence to accept inducements, involving money or any other kind of benefits, for “the political purposes”; it will also be made punishable either with fine or imprisonment for up to three years. This provision, however, will not apply to the cases if a person accepts such inducements unknowingly.