Parliament passed on March 30 with its first reading draft amendment to the controversial law on political parties, which also includes provisions regulating party funding rules.
The authorities have agreed to amend the law after the ruling party accepted key recommendations from a campaign group, including the one envisaging narrowing circle of entities and individuals that may fall under the monitoring of the state audit agency’s unit in charge of political finances.
Among the key amendments are:
- Narrowing circle of entities falling under the law’s regulations;
- Wording "directly or indirectly related" to be removed;
- Fines imposed by the state audit agency will be reduced;
- 0.2% of GDP cap on donations/spending to be amended;
- Courts to have more say over state audit agency’s decisions;
- State audit agency will no longer have right to demand barring a political party from running in elections
For more detailed information about what is being amended see: Party Funding Law to Be Revised
One new provision, which was not featured in the initial draft amendment, is that the state audit agency, Chamber of Control, will have to make public on monthly basis information about donations made to political parties, including information about donors. Political parties will have to provide information to the state audit agency about a donation within five working days, instead of current three, after receiving a donation, according to the amendment.
The amendment will not apply to a provision, which bans corporate funding to political parties and which caps annual donation from an individual citizen at GEL 60,000 (about USD 36,000).
During the discussions of the draft amendments at a parliamentary session on March 30, MP Giorgi Tsagareishvili, who is a member of Our Georgia-Free Democrats, party in Bidzina Ivanishvili-led opposition coalition, said that the proposed amendments “actually changes nothing for political players.” He also said that the authorities introduced new party funding regulations and empowered the state audit agency with new broad authority with the only purpose just to target Ivanishvili and his supporters.
MP Jondi Bagaturia from the opposition parliamentary faction Unity for Justice to which MP Tsagareishvili is also a member, said during the debates, that the draft would not help to bring “real improvements” to the law on political parties, because the state audit agency would still be able to summon activists and question them as it had already happened in respect of Ivanishvili’s supporters this month.
“It’s wrong if someone thinks, that the Chamber of Control should not have a right to gather information and should be satisfied only by [financial] papers submitted by parties, especially now when it has become obvious that there are lots of individuals – gathered around one political union [referring to Ivanishvili’s coalition], who try to somehow bypass [restrictions] set by this law,” ruling party MP Pavle Kublashvili, who chairs parliamentary committee for legal affairs, said during the debates.
“We won’t leave any loophole and we won’t let anyone to bypass the law,” he added.
MP Kublashvili also said that discussions would continue on some of the provisions of the amendment before the draft’s approval with its second reading.
The campaign group, which has been pushing actively for revision of the controversial legislation, was also demanding to change a provision in the criminal code which envisages fine or imprisonment for up to three years for accepting or demanding inducements, involving money or any other kind of benefit, for political purposes. This provision applies to the cases if a person accepts such inducements knowingly.
The ruling party agreed to only partially accept the proposal and, according to amendment to the criminal code passed with its first reading on March 30, demanding inducements will no longer be regarded as a crime, but knowingly accepting such inducements will still remain crime punishable with up to three years in prison. According to this amendment no criminal liability will apply to a person for accepting inducement if she or he reports about it to the authorities.
The amendment to the law on political parties also includes a proposal on allocating additional state funding for some political parties, which will be used for political TV ads.