Parliament passed unanimously on August 7 with its final reading a legislative amendment, envisaging increase of state funding for UNM, six parties within Georgian Dream coalition and three other parties, as well as making public funds available for four more parties ahead of the October 27 presidential election.
The scheme, envisaged by the amendment to the law on political unions, will see one-time GEL 150,000 payment from the state budget for total of seven non-parliamentary opposition parties; an aggregate vote of these seven parties in last year’s parliamentary elections was less than 5%.
Total of GEL 6.1 million (about USD 3.68 million) is already allocated this year for fourteen political parties, which are eligible for state funding, of which GEL 2.17 million (about USD 1.3 million) goes to six parties united in the Georgian Dream coalition and GEL 2.03 million to UNM (about USD 1.22 million). On top of this funding, GD and UNM, according to the new scheme, will get in addition GEL 150,000 in September-December of 2013.
State funding, according to the regulations existing for years already, is allocated to “qualified political parties” – those, which have won at least 4% of the vote in the most recent parliamentary elections and at least 3% of the vote in the last local elections.
For details about which party get how much of public funds this year see: 2013 State Funding for Political Parties
According to the new legislative amendments, a total of GEL 1.05 million will be allocated from the state budget for those seven parties (each receiving GEL 150,000), which failed to endorse their members in the Parliament in last year’s elections.
Three out of these seven parties are already eligible to state funding based on 2010 local election results; these parties are: Christian-Democratic Movement (received 2.04% in 2012 parliamentary elections), whose leader Giorgi Targamadze is running for president in the October 27 election; New Rights Party (garnered 0.43% in 2012 elections) and now actually defunct party Movement for Fair Georgia (received 0.19% of votes in last year’s elections).
Four other parties, which will receive GEL 150,000 each as a one-time payment, are those which are not currently eligible to any state funding at all; these are: Labor Party (garnered 1.24% in 2012 parliamentary elections), whose leader Shalva Natelashvili is running for president; Free Georgia (received 0.27% in last year’s elections), led by Kakha Kukava; National-Democratic Party (0.14%) and Kartuli Dasi (o.11%), led by former lawmaker Jondi Bagaturia.
This scheme was first developed in frames of the inter-faction group uniting about two dozen of political parties. While initially GD seemed in favor of such a scheme, later the ruling majority said it was against, triggering non-parliamentary opposition’s outcry; an active campaigning and vocal protest from these small parties yielded result and late last month GD made a U-turn and agreed to adopt the scheme.
It, however, angered one GD MP Giorgi Gachechiladze, who is the leader of Greens Party; Although MP Gachechiladze became a lawmaker from GD’s party list in last year’s parliamentary elections, his Greens Party is not a member of GD six-party coalition, hence Greens Party, under this scheme, is not eligible for state funding. MP Gachechiladze said during the discussion of the bill with its first reading on August 6 that such a scheme was completely unfair and he would boycott meetings of the GD parliamentary majority in protest; he also said that he was not quitting GD parliamentary majority group out of “huge respect” to PM Ivanishvili.
MP Zakaria Kutsnashvili, who chairs the inter-faction group which developed the bill and series of other legislative amendments related to political parties and elections, said that the proposed scheme was far from being fair, but it was an urgent, interim measure to provide more resources for the political parties, including for small, non-parliamentary ones, ahead of the October 27 presidential election.
MP Kutsnashvili said that the entire state funding scheme for the political parties should be revised after the presidential elections and ahead of the local elections in spring 2014 in a way which would not foster, as he put it, “parasitism” of political parties; he suggested that the new system should not encourage so called “one-man parties”.
Late last month the Parliament adopted number of amendments to the law on political parties and election code, which create more possibilities for the political parties to attract funding. Among these changes were easing party funding rules by allowing corporate donations and allocating state funding to presidential candidates, who will garner at least 10% of votes in the upcoming elections to reimburse pre-election campaign expenses in an amount of maximum GEL 1 million.