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Government says more transparency of party funding needed

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, June 26
Controlling the financing of political parties was the main issue of discussion for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and the Parliamentary majority at a meeting in the Presidential Residence in Avlabari on June 25. After the meeting, which was closed to the media, ruling party MPs talked about a “new wave of widening democracy” and giving political parties more freedom in their activities. However, the National Movement members said political financing should be controlled more strictly. “Priority should be given to obtaining funding inside the country. As for the foreign, in particular, Russian finance, this should not be allowed in the Georgian political arena and changes should be made to the legislation which will prevent any possibility of Russian special agencies’ interfering in Georgia’s internal politics,” MP Goka Gabashvili said. He said Georgian legislation will in future contain mechanisms which will make funding more transparent and make parties responsible to the state and society.

Talks on establishing control of political parties’ financial sources will start from next week, officials said. MP Pavle Kublashvili said sanctions would be imposed on parties in future if they did not present reports about their funding. Parliamentary majority members have offered the opposition the opportunity to participate in working out the appropriate amendments to the existing legislation. “I think this is a very important issue, because in recent days we have unfortunately seen that our opponents are happy to get funds from such persons as Kakha Targamadze,” Kublashvili told journalists before the meeting. “These persons should state where they get their money from and if legislation need to be improved to make sure this happens it should be,” National Movement MP Shota Malashkhia stated.

The non-Parliamentary opposition say they are not planning to participate in any discussions on funding issues. “I am not going to get involved in a discussion with the Government on this issue, because the law should enable everyone to be in the same conditions. It is absolutely unacceptable that whenever Saakashvili wants he can punish political parties and whenever he wants he starts political trading,” Eka Beselia from the Movement for United Georgia has said. Some “radical” opposition politicians say funding is an important issue, however in this case the Government is using it to “play its own game.” “This is a very important issue, but only if the Government addresses it properly and stops using it to suggest impropriety by others and punish the opposition parties. As soon as the opposition get going, the Government uses financing as a tool for punishing them and I am sure that these changes will be designed to give the maximum comfort to the Government and the maximum discomfort for the opposition parties,” Manana Nachkebia from the New Rights noted.

Some opposition members have suggested creating a special group of independent experts and trusted persons to produce ratings of the various parties. “The proportion of funding they receive should be calculated based on these ratings,” Soso Shatberashvili from the Labour Party stated. “The commission should be staffed on the parity basis, with each party having one representative,” he added.

Opposition parties claim they have not received any funding from the state since May 1. “The office rent has not been paid for 2 months, and neither have the staff of this office received their salaries, because on Saakashvili’s personal order none of the opposition parties has received the financing due to them from the budget since May 1” Conservative Party co-leader Kakha Kukava noted.

The funding of political parties will probably be restored by July, ruling party members say. According to Pavle Kublashvili the money from the state budget was not transferred for “technical reasons” related to the changes being made in the budget. The MP said these changes had not been made because Parliament had been unable to hold a plenary session due to the protest rallies in front of the Parliament building. “Our opponents did not care about the laws that had to be adopted. When it turned out that one law was related to their financing, they got concerned and started talking about the necessity of adopting this law as soon as possible,” Kublashvili said.

Analysts say the Government is creating a “virtual democracy” and the law changes relating to funding are part of it. “This Government’s existence is based on two things: the small financial capacities of the opposition and propaganda. The administration is doing its best to block finance for opposition parties, so talking about transparency and balance is just not serious,” political analyst Gia Khukhashvili told The Messenger.