The Office of the Public Defender of Georgia “negatively” reacted to the new bill package initiated by the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party, which envisages, among others, denying state funding and media airtime for opposition parties refusing to enter new Parliament.
The Public Defender said the proposal “violates the rights guaranteed to political parties under Georgian law” and called on the Parliament not to endorse the amendments.
The bill, according to the Ombudsperson, restricts property rights of the boycotting opposition, given that parties met all requirements to receive funding, having received at least 1% of the votes and submitted written consent. “The same applies to the possibility of cancelling free airtime for political parties,” the statement reads.
The Public Defender highlighted that the existing law on Political Association of Citizens defines the purpose of budgetary funding for political parties as “financial support for party activities and the development of a party system” and is not limited to funding party activities exclusively within the Parliament.
It underscored that as per OSCE/ODIHR recommendations electoral reform should be an inclusive process, and that similar changes should not exclusively be made by a single political group.
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The Public Defender also recalled that back in 2008 it already assessed similar move by the United National Movement-led Parliament as “sanction” against the boycotting opposition. This assessment remains valid for current developments, the Ombudsperson said.
The new Georgian Parliament, elected through October 31 parliamentary elections, opened on December 11 with only Georgian Dream MPs in attendance. All eight opposition parties/blocs that crossed the 1% election threshold are refusing to enter the Parliament, citing election fraud and demanding revote, the demands the Georgian Dream refuses to meet.
The GD MPs endorsed the package in the first reading on December 23. The ruling party said yesterday will seek to legitimize the bill by requesting opinions of the OSCE/ODIHR and/or the Venice Commission before the second and third readings.
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