Two officials in the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in a new statement express concern about how Georgia’s authorities are enforcing a set of new tough campaign finance rules.

The regulations were ushered in late in 2011, after the appearance of a resourceful businessman in the political arena, and have led to an unprecedented legal campaign by the government to curtail the businessman’s influence.

PACE co-rapporteurs for Georgia Michael Aastrup Jensen and Boriss Cilevičs expressed concern about reports that Georgian authorities have seized the bank accounts of Georgian Dream, thereby undermining the coalition’s election campaign for the parliamentary elections on 1 October.

The rapporteurs call the fines issued to Georgian Dream by the campaign finance watchdog, today called the State Audit Office, but previously known as the Chamber of Control, “excessive” and “disproportionate”.

“This is of concern, especially in the context of recurrent allegations of bias of the State Audit Service and reports by credible organisations, such as the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, that question the fairness of the court decisions in this respect” the co-rapporteurs said.

“The rationale for campaign funding legislation is to ensure a level playing field between all electoral contestants, and not to drive one party or the other out of the electoral race. The upcoming elections, and their democratic conduct, are crucial for Georgia’s democratic development. We therefore call upon the Georgian authorities to demonstrate maximum restraint and to ensure that all parties, including he Georgian Dream Coalition, can participate fully in the electoral campaign”  they added.

Aastrup Jensen and Cilevičs are to visit Georgia on September 11 and 12 as part of the CoE’s preparations to monitor the election process.