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Parliament debates political TV ad financing

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, April 13
Thanks to amendments made to the Law on the Political Unions of Citizens, those parties participated in local government elections will be eligible to receive government funding for television commercials, up to 600 000 GEL.

This change in the Election Code was discussed in Parliament Thursday, and prompted a heated debate on whether or not the law favours some parties over others.

Jondi Baghaturia, leader of Georgian Trope, does not approve of the decision, as his party did not participate in local government elections. He offered a counter-proposal, in which financing would be extended to those parties that won seats in Parliament; however it was not taken into consideration by the parliamentary majority. He called this snub "revenge" for his frequent criticism of the government. "I appeal to the majority representatives: behave accordingly, don’t put yourselves in a bad position, and don’t let be captured by the President’s will,” Baghaturia said. He personally addressed the head of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, Pavle Kublashvili, saying he has “goodwill towards him” but hopes that he "will not turn into a grotesque figure".

Kublashvili responded by saying that the only issue Baghaturia cares about is money, and then predicted that his "failure in the elections is inevitable".

Majority reprehensive Davit Darchiashvili also raised the issue of restrictions on foreign funding in the law, and noted that they are not prohibited unless they are in support of an official political party.

Lela Taliuri, representative of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, told The Messenger that the ongoing process of negotiation with the administration on the law can be assessed as positive. "[Regarding] the main points on which we had [criticisms] – regarding the right of expression and so on – our recommendations have been taken into consideration. However, there were those... like the punishment of voters, of which we demanded a complete removal, where our demand was only partially satisfied," she said, noting that it is still to early to gauge their progress. "When the process is complete, making comments and assessments will be more important," she stated.

Some critics are skeptical about the parliamentary debates and the consultations between the Legal Committee and NGOs, as they believe that the heart of the law is discriminatory, and such minor changes will make little difference. However, some analysts believe that the administration is making real concessions and that international and civil society pressure on the government is working.