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Parliament passes the bill in 1st reading abolishing state funding for boycotting parties

By Khatia Bzhalava
Thursday, December 24
On Wednesday, the Parliament of Georgia of the 10th convection adopted a bill in the first reading, which envisages the abolition of state funding for boycotting parties and termination of free airtime. The amendments to the Law on Political Associations of Citizens initiated by the Georgian Dream party was approved by 84 votes. The bill provides for the halting of state funding (or suspension for a year) for political parties if at least half of MPs elected by its party list refuse to take up their parliamentary mandates, terminate their powers, and/or miss plenary sessions for no reason. According to one of the initiators of the law, the opposition parties will receive budget funding for the next six months.

The legislative package is being considered in an expedited manner, however, at yesterday’s plenary session, the leader of the ruling party Irakli Kobakhidze presented an initiative to suspend the bill discussion, send the legislative package to the Venice Commission and the OSCE / ODIHR, and to hold the second reading only after their positions are known. According to him, even though everything is legally and politically in order, such an initiative will ensure that there is no room for political speculations or criticism towards the bill.

The bill has received critical reviews from the opposition parties who believe that the ruling party uses this kind of way to force the opposition into the Parliament. According to an opposition political leader Gigi Ugulava, state party funding exists for more democracy and party diversity, and its abolition would not change the opposition’s decision but would make it even more consolidated. As the leader of the Georgian Labour Party Shalva Natelashvili stated when the bill was first initiated, no party or politician would enter the Parliament and would not betray people because of the ban on party funding and use of free media time. According to the opposition United National Movement (UNM) member Davit Kirkitadze, terminating state funding to political parties would not normalize the current political process. He believes that such steps made by the government further alienates positions and does not facilitate easing the political crisis.

14 NGOs have published a joint statement, expressing concern over the initiative. The NGOs believe that the Georgian government bears primary responsibility for the "large-scale and multifaceted crisis in Georgia." According to the statement, the public was most hopeful for the 2020 Parliamentary Election, due to the transition to the almost proportional system. However, as a result of significant irregularities detected on the election day, NGOs describe 2020 parliamentary elections as “the least free and the least democratic elections throughout an entire period of Georgian Dream government,”

“It is most unfortunate that when each of the three branches of the government should be making every possible effort to remedy the situation and seek for the solution, representatives of the ruling party make statements in regards to initiating restrictions on the activities of opposition parties. In this regard it is particularly alarming that the ruling party has initiated the draft law, that amongst others includes nullification of the budget funding and the free airtime for opposition parties for the next elections,” reads the statement.

The leader of the Alliance of Patriots, Irma Inashvili, has already officially requested termination of parliamentary mandates obtained by the party at the October 31 parliamentary elections, so did six of eight opposition parties that have won seats in the Parliament. Nevertheless, it became known just yesterday that Avtandil Enukidze, number four on the list of the Patriots Alliance, plans to enter the parliament.