TBILISI, DFWatch – The political partners of the Georgian tycoon turned opposition leader will have to return the money they received from him.
Otherwise, they must give it to the state. This is the consequence of a new bill approved by parliament on Wednesday at the third and last hearing.
The final version of the bill states that ‘political associations of citizens’ which have received funds in violation of its regulations and have not spent it by the moment of the enactment of the law, must return the money within three days. Otherwise, this sum must be handed over to the state. The law requires the signature of the president before it is effective.
This means that the law applies to funds political parties received before the bill came into force.
Pavle Kublashvili, chairman of Parliament’s judicial committee, says that the law adopted by the parliament has no counteracting force.
Authorities began the process to tighten the laws on campaign financing a few week ago. This was shortly after the richest Georgian and possible the richest man in the southern Caucasus region decided to enter politics. Forbes magazine estimates Bidzina Ivanishvili’s fortune to be 5.5 billion dollars. In a dramatic open letter, he announced October 7 that he wants to defeat the ruling National Movement Party (NMP) in the parliamentary elections in October 2012.
Ivanishvili who himself lacks political experience, quickly put together a team of advisors and teamed up with four opposition groups: the Republican Party, the Free Democrats, lead by former UN ambassador Irakli Alasania, the Conservative Party and the People’s Party. This step allowed the chronically cash-strapped Georgian opposition to gain momentum and financing, in a country which is dominated by one sole party, the NMP.
Members of parliament from the NMP justify the new restriction by the fact that one very rich person could monopolize the political landscape in the country with still fledgling democratic institutions. Moreover, they argue that the Kremlin interest is looming behind Ivanishvli, who earned much of his wealth in Russia, an argument Ivanishvili and his partners vigorously deny.
Over the last two months, the tycoon has already boosted his opposition following by about 1.1 million lari via companies under his ownership. This move was consistent with legislation at the time, but the new bill would make it unlawful.
Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which Georgia has ratified, prohibits the retrospective criminalisation of acts and omissions.