The rule of public funding distribution among political parties has worsened again
On April 18, the Parliament of Georgia (77 votes for and one against) adopted new amendments to the law “on Political Unions of Citizens”. According to these amendments, a status of qualified party and respective public funding will be given to a party, which will have at least one majoritarian MP who can form a faction in the parliament. In this case, a party will not be required to overcome 3 per cent threshold.
We believe these amendments are unacceptable because they are intentionally formulated for benefiting one party. Moreover, they also reduce public funding standards and increase a risk of their misuse. Public funding should be given to political parties according to their countrywide electoral support and not only for having a single MP in the parliament who can form a faction. As far as we know, parliamentary majority is currently working on reforming public funding rules for political parties, therefore, such fragmented and one party oriented unwise amendments are unexplainable.
Prior to these amendments, a party would be given a status of “qualified” if it could get at least 3 per cent of votes in the last parliamentary or local proportional elections. New amendments further simplified these criteria and now having only one representative in the parliament could be enough for political parties to get public funding if this person can form a faction.
As a result of these amendments, a political party “Industry Will Save Georgia”, that did not participate in the last local elections, will maintain a status of qualified party and public funding only because its sole representative could form a parliamentary faction in 2016. It is noteworthy that this party not only skipped last local elections, but also it got 0.78 per cent of votes in 2016 parliamentary elections. Due to new amendments, such a low-ranked party will get more that GEL 600 000 annually from state budget. For the next general elections it will also get an opportunity of reimbursement of expenses related to election representation and advertising. One portion of free advertising time will also be given to this party.
It is noteworthy that certain problem related to this political party also occurred in 2016 when the Central Election Commission and courts allowed it to get GEL 300 000 annually and a right to appoint an election commission member. This decision was made since one majoritarian nominee of this party could win elections and form a parliamentary faction, although the party could not overcome 3 per cent threshold in countrywide proportional elections. We also considered this decision unfair.
Problems related to political party finance have been disputed for a long time and the adopted amendments will further deepen a problem. We think, the current public funding rule has certain flaws and funding for forming a parliamentary faction is among them. We believe the idea of getting public funding for forming a faction is not reasonable since the operation costs of a faction are covered by the budget of the Parliament. Public funding should serve a goal to support those parties that have certain legitimacy from electorate.
We call on the parliamentary majority to accelerate work on reforming political party finance regulations that, among other issues, will offset unfair results of the recent amendments. In addition, this process should be maximally open and inclusive from the very beginning in order to get such amendments that will be based on compromise among political parties and other stakeholders.
Transparency International Georgia
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy
Georgian Young Lawyers Association