A campaign group, lobbying for revising the law on political parties and their funding, welcome the authorities’ readiness to introduce changes in the controversial legislation, but say the ruling party’s proposal falls far short of what’s needed to allay concerns.
Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Bakradze, said on March 5 that party funding regulations, introduced in late December, would be amended in a way to provide specific clarifications that the legislation does not restrict “legitimate activities” of civil society groups and western donors working on political parties’ development programs. He said that the legislation in question was not imposing any restrictions on such groups in away way, but changes would be introduced in order “to remove all the question marks.”
Ruling party MP Akaki Minashvili, who met on March 7 with representatives of foreign non-governmental organizations working in Georgia on democracy development programs and political parties’ institutional assistance, said that foreign donors had “a perception” that restrictions set by the legislation might also apply to their operations.
“We have assured them that the law does not apply them,” MP Minashvili told Civil.ge on March 7 and also added that in order to give additional guarantee a provision would be added to the law specifing that “restrictions do not apply to those legal entities, which aim at supporting political parties’ institutional building.”
He said that lawmakers were now working on an exact formulation, which was expected to be drafted tentatively for next week.
MP Minashvili also said that the parliamentary committee for legal affairs was in parallel also considering other proposals, which were tabled by a group of local non-governmental organizations, lobbying for revising of the controversial legislation.
Election watchdog and legal advocacy groups, joined by some media outlets, which have been actively campaigning recently under the name - ‘This Affects You Too’, in favor of amending the law, said on March 7 that making specific clarifications in the law only about local and foreign NGOs was “important, but not enough.”
The campaigners want to narrow circle of entities and individuals which may fall under the regulation of the party funding legislation by limiting scope of such entities to those groups, which have “declared electoral goals” (instead of “political and electoral goals” as it is now formulated in the law) and which spend funds for achieving such goals.
The campaigners want criminal liability for accepting inducements, involving money or other benefits, for political purposes to be scrapped; they want punishment to be applied only to those who will offer or give such inducements to voters.
The campaign group also demands limiting the state audit agency’s broad discretional authority by setting clear criteria and procedures based on which the agency will be taking its decisions in respect of such issues like imposing fines or impounding an entity’s property; the group wants court to also have its say in the process of impounding property.
The campaigners also want to decrease fines imposed in case of violation of provision of the law.
“We will keep campaigning as we have not yet achieved our goals,” said Keti Khutsishvili, an executive director of Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), which funds the campaign.