Transparency International (TI) Georgia, a local watchdog, released on January 15 a report on Parliamentary Elections 2020 campaign finances covering September 1 to November 17 period. The research further looked into the donations received by political parties and the trends highlighted in this regard since January 1, 2020.
The report examined the financial activities of eight election parties/blocs out of nine that received at least 1% of the votes. The right-libertarian Girchi party was the only party that did not submit completed financial statements to the State Audit Office.
TI Georgia noted that the studied eight election contestants received a total of GEL 38.6 million from September 1 to November 17, from which 90% of total revenues were coming from private funding. Almost half of this amount (45%) – GEL 17.3 million went to the ruling Georgian Dream (GD), while the Lelo party led by banker-turned-politician Mamuka Khazaradze took second place with GEL 6 million, and the United National Movement (UNM) election bloc came third with GEL 5.7 million.
The donations constituted a total of GEL 33.4 million, of which GEL 15.3 million (46% of all donation revenue) was received by the GD. Lelo party took second place with GEL 6 million, and the UNM election bloc was third with GEL 5.7 million. The watchdog noted that compared to the 2016 Parliamentary Elections the ruling party’s share in total donations has decreased from 68% to 46%.
According to the report, the companies connected with the donors of the ruling party had won tenders worth about GEL 68 million in 2020 (until November 17) and, in return, these donors had donated GEL 1.6 million to the GD in the same period.
The watchdog also noted regarding expenses of the parties that they spent a total of GEL 37.3 million in the reporting period, of which 46% – GEL 17.1 million – was spent by the ruling GD party, while Lelo came second with GEL 6 million, and the UNM bloc third with GEL 5.2 million.
75% of election contestants’ expenses (GEL 28.1 million) were advertising expenses, from which the ruling party’s advertising cost accounted for 43% of the total amount. The other largest categories were rental expenses (6%) and salaries (4%).
The report also referred to the possible Russian financing of Georgian political parties. TI Georgia recalled the Russian watchdog Dossier’s investigations about alleged financial and logistical aid of the Alliance of Patriots (AoP) party by the Kremlin, and noted that the relevant state bodies “did not consider it necessary to launch an investigation, leaving unanswered serious questions about the interference of the hostile country in Georgian politics.”
The watchdog issued several recommendations, including the necessity of the establishment of an independent anti-corruption agency that could investigate and respond to the corrupt transactions between the donors and the parties.