New party financing model to include small parties in Georgia

The government in Georgia has presented figures for how political parties are to receive state funding in this year’s election campaign.

2 100 000 lari (USD 1 300 000) will be allocated for the seven parties that are represented in parliament; 1 050 000 lari (USD 650 000) will be allocated for non-parliamentary parties; and four so-called unqualified political subjects will receive a single installment of 150 000 lari (USD 90 000) each.

This is the new model for party financing proposed by the new ruling party.

Party financing has long been a subject of dispute between the government and the opposition. Strict rules were introduced during Saakashvili’s government. Only parties which overcame the 4 percent threshold in parliamentary elections, and 3 percent threshold in local elections, would receive financing.

Under Georgian law, a party needs to get more than 5 percent of the votes in order to be guaranteed representation in parliament, although it may achieve seats through the first-past-the-post system even with a lower percentage, while there is a 4 percent threshold in local elections. However, many parties have not been able to get enough votes and have therefore failed to qualify for state financing.

During Saakashvili’s time in power, his National Movement party received the lion’s share of state financing, with a few so-called satellite parties getting the rest. UNM used to manipulate how parties received funding. For example in 2011, before the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili went into politics, the government managed to split the opposition by allocating financing for a few of them. Those parties have lower than 1 percent support today.

After Ivanishvili went into politics, Saakashvili’s party established many new restrictions on party financing, apparently in order to block him from financing political parties.

Fourteen political parties are financed by the state today. Seven of them have seats in parliament, out of which six are members of the Georgian Dream coalition. Then there is the UNM, and seven other parties which are also qualified.

With the new model, four more parties will receive financing, in addition to these fourteen. They are the National Democratic Party, the Labor Party, Free Georgia and Georgian Dasi, none of which have reached the threshold in past elections. These four will receive a single installment of state funds. The New Rights Party, Christian Democrats and People’s Party will also receive a once-time sum.

Zakaria Kutsnashvili, a member of parliament from the Georgian Dream coalition, explained at a briefing on Monday that the principle behind the new model is the following: that each would receive more financing from the state or neither of them.

The proposal will be reviewed by parliament in a fast-track procedure. Speaker of Parliament Davit Usupashvili said Monday that party financing rules will change before the presidential election, which is scheduled for October 27.

The draft will also amend regulations which were established when Ivanishvili first went into politics, including financing issues.

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