Authorities are planning to introduce a new scheme that would make several parties eligible to additional funding from the state budget on top of what they already receive, a senior ruling party lawmaker, Pavle Kublashvili, said on January 26.
Details and an exact scheme has yet to be defined, but the proposal, which the ruling party plans to unveil, will offer to provide additional funding particularly for election year, but this funding should specifically be used by the parties for covering cost of political ads on television channels and possibly on radio stations too. Parties eligible to such funding will be able to use these funds throughout the election year and not necessarily only after a campaign period formally starts, according to the planned proposal.
If approved the scheme, requiring an amendment into the law on political parties, will be a supplement to already existing two types of party funding available from the state budget.
The first is a scheme according to which annual state funding is available for so called “qualified political parties” – those which have cleared, separately or together with others in an electoral bloc, a 4% threshold in parliamentary elections and a 3% threshold in local self-government elections. Total of GEL 5.9 million is currently envisaged for the funding of seventeen parties from the state budget annually based on their performance in recent elections. The ruling party receives more than any other from those seventeen parties – GEL 1.95 million, because it received more votes than others in the last parliamentary and local elections. Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) comes second with GEL 767,300.
The second type of state funding for parties is envisaged by the new election code, passed last month; according to this scheme parties or election blocs, which will clear 5% threshold in this year’s parliamentary elections will become eligible to funds to cover campaign cost in an amount of no more than GEL 1 million. GEL 300,000 of this sum will specifically be allocated for covering political TV ad cost.
The new, yet to be unveiled, scheme is expected to make about dozen of political parties eligible for the additional funding – those which had better results in the most recent elections, that is May, 2010 local elections.
Among these parties are National Movement; Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) and two small parties (Christian-Democratic People’s Party and European Democrats), which ran jointly in a bloc with CDM in local elections; also four parties which are now allied with billionaire opposition politician Bidzina Ivanishvili: Our Georgia-Free Democrats (OGFD), Republican Party, Conservative Party and People’s Party; three other remaining parties are: New Rights, Georgia’s Way and Industrialists.
MP Kublashvili could not provide at this stage exact figures of planned funding, but said the total sum for all these parties would exceed GEL 1 million. He said that the planned new scheme would not require amending of 2012 state budget; he said funds would become available from the Central Election Commission’s budget; this year CEC’s total budget is GEL 41.6 million.
Amendments to the law on political parties, passed in late December, ban corporate funding.
Although the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, Venice Commission, said in December, that banning for corporate funding was “positive point” of the new regulations, the Commission also noted about possible negative aspects of such prohibition. In particular, the Venice Commission said that if there was no adequate level of state subsidies for the political parties, “the banning of corporate funding coupled with strict disclosure provisions may create difficulties for the political parties to fundraise”. For that reason, the Commission in its recommendation released on December 20 called “to re-visit the broad prohibition of corporate donations to the party finances.” But in an updated text released by the Venice Commission two days later, on December 22, this call of re-visiting the provision was removed from the recommendations.
MP Kublashvili said that the Venice Commission’s this recommendation was not a main motivation for offering new scheme for additional funding. He said it was done in line with the authorities’ pledge made in October to increase party funding.
Few days after billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili announced about his plans to go into politics in early October, the ruling party slammed him as the Kremlin stooge trying “to buy Georgia’s future” and pledged to increase funding for the political parties.
“We should spare no efforts in order to protect the Georgian politics from the Russian money. Hence, I think that in the near future a fund should be set up for financial support of political parties. As you know funds are already available from the state budget for ‘qualified electoral entities’ and this funding should further increase,” MP Kublashvili said on October 11, 2011.