The messenger logo

Where does the money come from?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, June 25
Levan Gachechiladze, an opposition leader who had been abroad, stated on his return that he had gone overseas to obtain money to fund the protest rallies. This statement caused a big fuss, particularly in the administration, which started demanding that Gachechiladze name the source of this finance, hinting that it probably came from people who had fled Georgia and settled in Russia. The opposition meanwhile started counterattacking, accusing the administration of conducting financial manipulations inside the country.

It is illegal for political parties to accept finance from outside the country. Levan Gachechiladze, who is a private individual and businessman, made a very short and general statement on the matter. He confirmed that he had gone abroad to get money. “They can label this what they want, I’m clear before my country and my conscience. In due course I will announce where, how and whom I was meeting, however I am not prepared to say these things at present”, Gachechiladze stated on June 19. Three days later he repeated almost the same statement: “I am not specifying in order not to put these people in a difficult position. The money will be used for freedom and democracy.” Yesterday however it became known that one person Levan Gachechiladze met in Germany was Kakha Targamadze, the former Minister of the Interior in the Shevardnadze administration who fled Georgia after the Rose Revolution and became a Russian citizen in 2005. In a telephone call Targamadze denied financing the opposition, but did not deny meeting Gachechiladze.

On June 22 Gachechiladze’s statement became this subject of special debates. Majority representatives demanded more transparency in political parties’ financial dealings. MP Shota Malashkhia even proposed that an investigation into the origin and purpose of these donations should be instigated. MP Goka Gabashvili demanded that it be made clear “who is ordering the music in Georgia,” expressing his certainty that Gachechiladze’s money came from Russia. “Russian companies are spending USD 70 million to lobby for causes favourable to Russia. Under the circumstances it is easy to understand how much Russia could be prepared to spend to create a situation favourable for itself in Georgia,” Gabashvili stated.

Another opposition leader, Davit Gamkrelidze, refuted the allegation that the Kremlin was encouraging Georgian entrepreneurs in Russia to finance the Georgian opposition. No opposition party had been financed before April 9 or subsequently by Georgian businessmen active in Russia, he said. The opposition has tried to remind the administration that when they were in opposition themselves before the Rose Revolution they had received money from the Soros Foundation and even Russia itself. The Labour Party has made a particular issue out of this. The administration says that political parties are officially financed by the state but opposition parties are complaining that those outside Parliament do not receive any state funding, and have not for several months. Giorgi Gugava from Labour thinks this is a case of the Government punishing the opposition parties.

Christian Democrat Levan Vephkhvadze has told fellow MPs that political funds in Georgia are distributed very strangely. The ruling National Movement spent GEL 12 million on the Parliamentary elections of May 21, 2008 whereas all the other parties put together spent only GEL 1 million.

“Business is very restricted and it is practically forbidden for it to finance political parties. If somebody takes the initiative to do so they might end up in a very tragic position. Either their warehouse would be burnt down or it would be claimed that the business has some debts and it would therefore be put into administration or closed,” Vephkhvadze said. Ruling party MP Zurab Melikishvili responded to this by saying that businessmen want to see stability and don’t want to finance the opposition because it is always trying to destabilise the country. Opposition leaders challenged this statement. Koba Davitashvili, leader of the Peoples’ Party, stated that the National Movement spent GEL 1 billion during last year’s elections. He also said that nobody in Georgia who has money to spend will dare finance the opposition as they are afraid of the Government.

So where does the money come from? This is the subject of debate inside and outside the Parliament and media. Mutual accusations abound, but so far neither side has produced conclusive evidence of where their funding comes from, and how.