Georgian parliamentary majority leader Irakli Kobakhidze announced on December 17 a new bill package that envisages suspending state funding for the boycotting opposition, as well as a set of other measures against the Georgian Dream’s political rivals.
The proposed legislative package entails termination or one-year suspension of state funding to parties who refuse to take up their MP mandates or if its lawmakers are absent from parliamentary sessions without legitimate excuses.
Dubbing the bill as an “appropriate legal response” to the opposition engaged in “parliamentary sabotage,” the Georgian Dream whip said the legislature, attended by the ruling party MPs only, is expected to endorse the legislation by the next week.
By amending the Election Code of Georgia, the bill will render the parties illegible of receiving free political ad airtime as well, noted Kobakhidze. In addition, an amendment to the Parliament Rules of Procedure envisages revoking the salaries of MPs who do not attend any plenary sessions during a month, he added.
Senior Georgian Dream lawmaker also noted that the bill includes terminating election registration of a party if a person not allowed to vote in Georgia participates in its election campaign as a leader. The measure is directed against GD’s arch-rival the United National Movement party, whose leader, ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, who does not hold Georgian nationality, heavily campaigned for the UNM from Ukraine.
Decrying the new bill, the United National Movement’s Khatia Dekanoidze said “no blackmailing, threats, or repressions in the past eight years could work against the UNM.” She expressed conviction that Georgia’s international partners will negatively react to the legislative package.
European Georgia leader Gigi Ugulava assessed GD’s announcement as “shameful,” arguing that the legislative proposal is unconstitutional.
Labor party leader Shalva Natelashvili, who gave up his parliamentary mandate, demanded that the foreign-facilitated negotiations of post-election talks to be suspended until the EU and the U.S. condemn “the establishment of a Putinist dictatorship” in Georgia and called for sanctions against GD Chair Bidzina Ivanishvili, as well as ruling party MPs.
The bill comes soon after MP Kobakhidze announced on December 9 that the GD-led parliament, that opened on December 11, would propose legislation with measures against the opposition, including on withdrawing state funds. The announcement then led to postponement of the final, fifth round of post-election talks, as opposition leaders explained.
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Claiming election fraud, all eight opposition parties/blocs that have crossed 1% threshold in October 31 parliamentary elections are unanimously boycotting new parliament. They are demanding snap elections, the resignation of CEC chair Tamar Zhvania and the release of alleged political prisoners, the demands the ruling party rejected, the demands that ruling party rejects to fulfil.
The UNM-led bloc, the largest opposition group, European Georgia, Lelo, Strategy Aghmashenebeli, and Labor Party applied the Central Election Commission to refusing their mandates, sticking to their initial demands. Kremlin-friendly Alliance of Patriots, as well as the Citizens party and right-libertarian Girchi have not yet applied to the CEC. The latter two, although not attending parliamentary sessions yet, are considering to quit boycott if the opposition clinches a deal with the ruling party.
Most parties, despite boycott, have applied to the funding. According to the CEC’s December 11 order, 12 parties are set to receive funds, with GD – GEL 5.1 million (USD 1.55 million) annually; UNM – GEL 2.2 million (USD 670 thousand); State for the People – GEL 240 thousand (USD 72 thousand); Progress and Freedom – GEL 12 thousand (USD 3.6 thousand); Republican Party – GEL 204 thousand (USD 62 thousand); European Democrats – GEL 460 thousand (USD 140 thousand); Strategy Aghmashenebeli – GEL 940 thousand (USD 290 thousand); Law and Justice – GEL 104 thousand (USD 31 thousand); European Georgia – GEL 1.1 million (USD 330 thousand); Lelo – GEL 803 thousand (USD 240 thousand); Alliance of Patriots – GEL 1 million (USD 300 thousand); Labor Party – GEL 290 thousand (USD 88 thousand). Two parties, Girchi and the Citizens did not apply.