Georgia may suspend government funding of opposition parties

In Depth – Political Funding

The Georgian opposition believes that by doing so, the authorities want to force them to end the boycott

Georgia plans to stop funding parties whose representatives give up their parliamentary mandates. At the same time, the deputies who, for disrespectful reasons, miss the plenary sessions for a month, have their wages canceled. As the executive secretary of the ruling Georgian Dream told the media Irakli Kobakhidze, the corresponding bill “against parliamentary sabotage” will be considered by the deputies next week.

Also, amendments will be made to the Electoral Code, according to which parties that have entered parliament, but refuse to participate in its activities, will be denied free TV air intended for election campaigns in municipal or parliamentary elections..

“Parliamentary sabotage carried out by radical opposition parties and other political associations acting under their blackmail and pressure is an action directed against the state and democratic institutions, which requires an appropriate legal response. It is this response that is provided for by the package of bills initiated by us, which the parliament will approve by the end of next week, ”said the executive secretary of the ruling party.

It should be reminded that five opposition parties that won seats in the Georgian parliament of the tenth convocation following the October 31 elections have officially renounced their parliamentary mandates, as they accuse the ruling Georgian Dream of falsifying the voting results. Three other opposition parties have not yet decided whether they will take a seat in the new parliament. Their representatives declare that they will make a final decision upon completion of negotiations between the opposition and the authorities, which have been taking place since the beginning of November with the mediation of the US and EU ambassadors..

The ruling Georgian Dream also intends to cancel the registration in elections for parties in whose election campaign persons who do not have the right to vote in Georgia participate. This change directly affects the largest opposition party “United National Movement” – the party of ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, which received 27, 18% of the vote in the October 31 elections (36 seats in parliament). It is noteworthy that Saakashvili, who lost his Georgian citizenship back in 2015, upon acquiring Ukrainian citizenship, actively participated in the UNM election campaign..

“We firmly believe that this law, along with the implementation of the constitutional requirement, will successfully reduce the degree of polarization in Georgian politics and strengthen healthy opposition political forces,” said Irakli Kobakhidze.

During the 2020 election campaign, the UNM said that if it wins the Georgian parliamentary elections in October, the party will nominate Mikheil Saakashvili for the post of prime minister of the country. At the same time, then almost all opposition political parties, including “European Georgia”, which was formed by members of Saakashvili’s team, said that they would not support his candidacy for the post of prime minister if they faced such a choice..

Recall that Mikhail Saakashvili left Georgia after his presidential term expired in 2013 and has not returned since then. After leaving Georgia, he was appointed by the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, to the post of chairman of the Odessa Regional State Administration, which he held from May 2015 to November 2016. In 2017, a Tbilisi court sentenced him in absentia to nine years in prison in two separate cases for abuse of power and embezzlement of funds. Saakashvili denies all charges, claiming they are politically motivated.

Opposition reaction

Only two opposition parties that entered parliament following the October 31 elections positively assessed the planned amendments to the Electoral Code, stating that if a party is not engaged in parliamentary activities, it should not receive state funding, and its deputies should not receive salaries..

“If we say that the elections were falsified and we are in a boycott regime, we should not demand money,” said the Citizens party, which received two mandates in the new parliament..

Although the majority of Georgian oppositionists hold the opposite opinion, stating that without state funding, parties will not be able to exist and that Georgian democracy will suffer as a result.

Georgia may suspend government funding of opposition parties

Saakashvili’s party called the authorities’ intentions to stop financing the parties as “blackmail and intimidation”, which, nevertheless, will not affect their position on the boycott. Regarding the planned amendment regarding the cancellation of registration, if this happens, UNM says it will appeal this decision in court..

“The possible cancellation of registration will be an unconstitutional decision and, most likely, it will end with the case reaching the Constitutional Court. Mikheil Saakashvili is the leader of the party, and the cancellation of the registration of the party for this reason alone does not fit into any legal framework, “the UNM said..

As a reminder, according to the results of the October 31 elections, Georgian Dream, which has had a majority in parliament since 2012, received 48.22% of the vote (90 out of 150 seats in parliament). At the same time, among the opposition, the most votes in the new parliament were received by the party of ex-president Mikhail Saakashvili “UNM”, for which 27, 18% (36 mandates) of voters voted. It is followed by “European Georgia” with 5 mandates (3.79% of the vote) – a party that was created by Saakashvili’s associates after the split in the UNM. Six more opposition parties that made it to parliament received from four to one seats, including the pro-Russian party Alliance of Patriots (4 mandates, ie 3, 14% of the vote).

Georgia may suspend government funding of opposition parties

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