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Parliament to see package of changes to political unions law

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, March 20
A package of proposed changes to the Law on Political Unions of Citizens is expected to be presented to Parliament on March 21.

A statement regarding the issue was made after a meeting between the Georgian NGOs that drafted the legislation, and representatives of the Parliamentary Legal Committee on March 19.

“Supposedly, the project of changes to the law will be prepared for tomorrow and will be initiated at the bureau sitting on Wednesday,” head of the legal committee, Pavle Kublashvili said, while maintaining that the basis of the law is ensuring financial transparency, not creating political pressure.

Kublashvili noted that there were some issues on which the NGOs and government representatives managed to agree upon.

Speaker of Parliament, Davit Bakradze, has expressed satisfaction with the completion of the negotiation process. "However, those people [who criticize the process] surprise me [with] their inadequate statements,” he said, without going into detail.

One of the major issues on which the two sides failed to agree was the maximum amount of money employees of a business may donate to a political party.

"The total sum of the money several employees of one and the same legal entity can donate to a political party is 500 000 GEL annually. Each can donate in total 60 000 GEL annually. We wanted a [total] rejection of the limit, however we did not succeed on this point,” head of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, Tamar Chugoshvili, said. She did note that there were some accomplishments, namely that both sides agreed that a "political party will not be punished if the donated money exceeds the limit; it will have to return the extra money. In this case, the donor will not be punished either.”

At the same time, some issues require clarification, for example, threats of punishment or detention of voters if they appeal to a political party for social assistance and get it.

Representatives from Freedom of Choice called the meetings important and profitable, as various controversial issues were discussed and agreed upon, including several articles related to the criminal code.

Amendments to the Law on Political Unions of Citizens have been controversial since their inception. Almost all opposition parties and a large number of NGOs have criticized the law, and claim that it unfairly targets the financial resources of opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Political analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili notes that nothing is out of the question for the current leadership of Georgia. He believes that after the NATO summit in May, President Mikheil Saakashvili might prevent his major opponent, Ivanishvili, from participating in the parliamentary elections, "justifying his actions with violations of the law [on political unions] as it is currently adopted, and trying to persuade the whole world".