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“Indirect Contact with Politics” – New Ground to Prohibit NGOs to Receive Grants

23.12.2011

Government is severing already harsh laws!

Experts and opposition are alarmed about the draft amendments to be made to the Law on Political Unions of Citizens which were already adopted through the first hearing of the Parliament and it envisages new rules for financing of political parties.

“If an NGO prepares a draft law and then for instance, some political party uses this draft law, this NGO will be deprived of right to receive financing from Legal Persons as well as international organizations. Also if some public union arranges some event which can be interpreted to be indirectly connected to political party, they too will face the same prohibition,” – experts state in the article of newspaper Rezonansi entitled “NGOs will be prohibited to receive grant “due to indirect contact with politics.”

“In general, according to this draft law, legal persons will be prohibited to finance political parties; only banks will be authorized to give out loan to political parties no more than 100 000 GEL; limit of donations from physical persons will be doubled up to 60 000 GEL; membership fees to the political parties must not exceed 1 200 000 GEL a year; annual total financing of political parties should not exceed 0.2% of Gross Domestic Product including financing from the budget – according to the budget parameters of the next year, financing of each party should not exceed 53 million GEL for 2012 and the surplus must be transferred to the state budget; every financial transaction must take place by through bank transaction; the political parties and legal persons will be prohibited to give out money, gifts and other material values; the Control Chamber will monitor the financial activity of the political party instead of Central Election Commission,” – the publication notes.

“These changes were reported by the government after Bidzina Ivanishvili expressed desire to join politics. Due to this reason, this decision of government can be linked to factor of Ivanishvili. It should also be noted that the NGOs supporting government do not hide this motivation. Another part of NGO sector categorically resisted these changes right at the moment they were announced as it can create many problems. One of the main problems is that after the draft law is enforces, whole Georgia will automatically become linked to a political party and certain sanctions will be imposed on them – the thing is that two articles will be added to the law which create possibility of this manipulation,” – the publication adds.

These are the articles: “the political party is prohibited to transfer financial assets, gifts and other material values to citizens of Georgia, sell goods for cheap, buy goods above the market price, transfer goods for free (except in cases envisaged by this law) or raise interest among Georgian citizens with a promise to transfer financial assets, securities and other material values through a representative or by anyone else” and one more thing: “restrictions set according to this chapter can also apply to: A) legal entity if it directly or indirectly connected to political party or is under the control of political party otherwise B) Legal entity which calls on the voter through a representative or another individual to support certain political force or restrain from support. Legal entity is directly or indirectly connected to political party when its expenses are directly or indirectly connected to the work and aims of political party.”

According to experts, this provision will create problems for art and sport figures.

“I would like to address government because the writers, actors, members of symphonic orchestra, singers and sportsmen might face significant problems,” – Christian-Democrat Levan Vepkhvadze stated at the hearing of the draft law. He was interested to see what government is doing to avoid the degradation of social state of these people.

The government explains the amendments were made to make the law conform to the recommendations of anti-corruption Sub Committee of Council of Europe Group of State against Corruption. However, the NGOs and experts state that these recommendations include nothing like that!” – The author of the article of Rezonansi states.

“I deliberately double-checked these recommendations and they state nothing like that. There is just one sentence that “some restrictions can be set” and then it gives the list of the restrictions where one of the provisions is the donation from the legal entity. But we are talking about restriction and not about prohibition. The restriction still has force. Also, this is not a recommendation, but a theoretical possibility. As for the recommendation, it directly states that the donations from legal entities which participate in state purchases and in which the state has a share should be restricted. This is what opposition has systematically requesting. It also states that the expenses spent by the political party can be restricted during the elections. But they do not consider this and there is much written which they neglect,” – expert Vakhtang Khmaladze states with the correspondent of Rezonansi.

“The part concerning the NGOs - any legal entity which does not belong to a certain political party – looks very problematic. The formulation is very ambiguous and gives chance for diverse interpretation. The formulations “direct and indirect link” and “representative of legal entity and another individual” are interesting. “Indirect link” is explained in a following way – when the entity uses its resources directly or indirectly for the party – “indirect” can be interpreted in different ways as well as “another individual representing legal entity…” who can be this “another individual”? According to the law this can be any individual – cousin of legal entity who has no link with this legal entity and etc… In this way the legal entity can be directly attached to party and all the restrictions set for the political party may apply to it,” – Vakhtang Khmaladze states.

According to him, such legal entity will not be able to receive grant or donation from the natural person which passes the established limit. At the same time, it will be obliged to present the work expenses like the political party: “These provisions according to the draft law are becoming rather strict for political parties. Such standards are more or less acceptable for a political party since its activity must be absolutely transparent but are completely unacceptable for legal entities. Moreover, if the NGO is attached to a political party it will not be able to receive donation from any legal entity since the political parties are prohibited to do so. Neither it will be able to receive grants from legal entities of other states. So the question is how can these NGOs receive grants from different organizations?”

“Interesting thing is that one more provision is added to this draft law which makes these rules stricter – the list to which the prohibition established for political parties can apply. The following provision is added to the draft law: “family members and individuals in business relations with the person who has expresses his/her political aims and goals,” – the publication states.

According to Interpressnews Press Digest

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