TBILISI, DFWatch – The government is going to take away financier Bidzina Ivanishvili’s last chance to enter Georgian politics, according to a group of experts and NGOs who have seen the details of a new proposal that will make it illegal for organizations and businesses to fund political parties.
The proposal comes out of the Ministry of Justice and was presented to the NGOs at a special meeting October 22.
After Ivanishvili launched his campaign, the President revoked his citizenship, which prohibited him from setting up or enter a political party and fund politics in general. But according to current legislation, he still has a right to finance a party through his own established legal entities.
But now it seems the government is trying to close this option for him too.
At a meeting October 22, the analytic department at the Ministry of Justice presented some proposals about the regulations of financing the political unions, according to a statement released yesterday by Transparency International Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association (GYLA) and International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED).
According to NGO representatives present at the meeting, part of the proposals falls in line with international and Georgian NGO recommendations, but most of it is not reflected in these recommendations and even contradicts a cross-party agreement reached in 2011.
Nina Khatiskatsi from Transparency International Georgia says that the government wants to prohibit the right of legal entities to finance political parties.
Today’s legislation gives legal persons, which roughly means organizations and companies, the right to donate money to political parties. In addition, the government is planning to set a ceiling for how much money it’s possible to raise for an election campaign, and political parties won’t be allowed to spend more than that, according to Nina Khatiskatsi.
The government also plans to set a limit on membership fees. Today no such upper limit exists and party members can pay as much as they want.
Another element in the proposal is to place the bank accounts and income of organizations such as NGOs in the same category of declaration as political parties’ accounts, insofar as their activities are for the benefit of political parties.
The government so far has not been willing to discuss the issue. Pavle Kublashvili, chairman of Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, says he will personally comment on the topics in the next few days.
NGOs describe the amendments as unacceptable, focusing on the fact that the government tries to present these issues as if they are following recommendations from international organizations, but this is not true, the NGOs point out, putting special emphasis on the fact that adopting these regulations cannot solve the problems, but on the contrary will make them worse.
“It is good that we discuss the regulations, but we do not want these regulations which less affect the Ruling Party, they already have more access to other resources,” Nina Khatiskatsi says.
The organizations see the government’s latest move within the context of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s sudden appearance in politics.
“The acceleration of events raises some questions in general. These recommendations have existed since summer and by the way, since summer the government was instructed to prepare necessary legislative changes. I mean the part, which is reflected in our and international organizations’ recommendations. Besides, the bill had been prepared, but despite all these recommendations existing for so long time still they are not reflected there.”
“Plus, the meeting was held expeditiously and such acceleration makes us think that, perhaps, this is related to recent events,” Nina Khatiskatsi says.