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Opposition coalition to lose state financing

By Eter Tsotniashvili
Tuesday, July 8
Parliament is planning to strip the country’s main opposition coalition of state financing after its members renounced their MPs’ status following May’s disputed parliamentary elections.

Coalition members say the move is a form of political repression.

Speaking last week, deputy chair of parliament’s legal issues committee Murtaz Zodelava said the new law—which takes away state financing from otherwise eligible parties that renounce their seats in parliament—would be fair.

“This is the right decision because if a political party refuses to be politically active it should not receive financing from the state budget. Parties that refuse to fulfill their political duty also refuse to carry out the responsibilities conferred upon them by their voters,” Zodelava said.

Four parties legally qualified for state financing after winning seats in the May 21 parliamentary elections.

Both the United Opposition coalition and the Labor Party are boycotting parliament in protest at what they say were rigged elections. But only the United Opposition has formally renounced its MPs’ status, meaning that under the new law the Labor Party will still qualify for state financing.

“This is political persecution,” coalition member Mamuka Katsitadze said. “It is an attempt to cut the opposition’s pulmonary artery.”

The Christian Democratic Movement, a newly-founded opposition party which has taken up its six seats in parliament, also criticized the proposed new law.

“I don’t agree with this decision and think that it discriminates against the opposition; this step will make the opposition more radical. It is unfair,” party leader Giorgi Targamadze said.

One party in the coalition, the Conservatives, will still receive state financing thanks to their representation in the Tbilisi sakrebulo.

Labor member Giorgi Gugava said the party has sent a letter to the Council of Europe, appealing for the organization to discuss the issue and pressure the government not to introduce the new law.

“The decision according to which the parties are financed is made by the Council of Europe and there was made a memorandum in Strasburg. This memorandum was a small guarantee of functioning opposition parties and developing democratic processes in Georgia,” he said.

Parliamentary vice speaker Mikheil Machavariani said the law would save the state budget GEL 600 000.