Differing views on the financial monitoring of political parties
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, January 6
How beneficial and needed was the decision for the Chamber of Control to be in charge of financially monitoring political parties, some negative comments from opposition parties on the subject, and the date of the upcoming elections were the top most discussed issues on January 5. While meeting with the Chairman of the Central Election Commission Zurab Kharatishvili on January 5, President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili underlined that the elections will be held in October, as the law prescribes.
During the meeting the President positively evaluated the changes in the election code and mentioned that the “Venice Commission approved of the changes, which is the most important thing for me. The only issue on which we could not agree is that they (referring to the Venice Commission) wanted small (single-mandate majoritarian) constituencies, like Kazbegi or Lentekhi, not to have their own [majoritarian] MPs,” Saakashvili said, adding that it was unacceptable for Georgia due to its historical and territorial specificity.
The President confirmed that the elections will be held in the Autumn and based on him these nine months before the elections should be carried out very actively, with the involvement of all interested sides. “I am not speaking now as leader of the United National Movement party, rather from my position as President, it is in my interest to hold clean elections.”
From his point of view Kharatishvili expressed CEC’s readiness for the elections and voiced his opinion on removing parties’ financial control from the Commission and granting it to the Chamber of Control.
Based on him the strategic goal of CEC is to gain public confidence in the electoral process and its results. In order to achieve the abovementioned, CEC intends to perform the function of an independent arbiter and together with all the sides involved in the electoral processes “we also intend to answer the two major challenges: firstly, for all subjects to have equal rights; and secondly, for election subjects to obey the law, ethical norms, not to cause harm to the election results by attempting to use administrative resources and bribing voters.”
As for the specific change regarding financial control of political party expenses, Kharatishvili underlined that the change was positive as “CEC had no real control over such monitoring, we just had formal power in this regard”.
However assessments concerning the change have not been so positive from the opposition parties, who, unlike ruling party representatives, can see some other meaning in the change.
The New Rights Party says that political parties’ finances should be transparent, but that they do not trust “the government-ruled Chamber of Control”. As party spokesperson Manana Nachkebia said, “Society and political parties’ confidence in the Chamber of Control is very low. The main point is that the amendments to the law are aimed at enabling the Government to exert pressure on political parties”.
One of the leaders of the Republican Party Tina Khidasheli was more strict in her assessments. She compared the monitoring service of political parties to a punitive agency. Khidasheli was not surprised by the fact that a representative of the Prosecutor’s Office was appointed head of the Monitoring Service.
“I would have been surprised if someone else were appointed to this post. Our country has turned into a police state; consequently, the only people trusted by the Government are employees of the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General’s Office.”
In addition, Tina Khidasheli cannot see any problem with financial monitoring of the Republican Party as the party has nothing to hide according to her.
The Chamber of Control which took responsibility for the financial controlling of political parties, has already started actions, the head of the monitoring service has also been named, having worked as a prosecutor before coming to the Chamber of Control.
On January 5 the Monitoring Service of the Chamber of Control also demanded a financial report from the public movement Georgian Dream. As head of the Monitoring Service Natia Mogeladze stated, a special application was sent to all political parties and the public movement Georgian Dream.
The Control Chamber’s monitoring applies not only to political parties, but also to legal or physical persons with declared political goals, which are directly or indirectly linked to political parties.
“We will send a letter to the public movement Georgian Dream. They have to provide information about their finances in reasonable time,” Mogeladze said.
The Chamber of Control is demanding a report about the finances of Georgian Dream from 1 November to 1 January.