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Opposition disapproves of new distribution of free advertising time for elections

By Marian Chanishvili
Tuesday, June 21
Georgia’s non-parliamentary opposition parties say the new regulations in the election code will decrease their free advertising time as the number of those parties enjoying the free time on TV may increase, while the length of the time remains unchanged.

According to a draft law approved with its second reading in Parliament on June 8, instead of five qualified political subjects, eleven such subjects will get the free political advertising time.

Based on the previous rule, only those political subjects could enjoy the free advertising time which gained four percent of votes in the last parliamentary elections, or three percent of votes in the last self-government elections.

During the previous elections, free adverting time on Georgian broadcasters was divided between five political parties.

However, in the previous elections, the current ruling Georgian Dream (GD) coalition was represented as a block, while for the upcoming October 8 parliamentary race the six members of the GD will participate separately.

Based on the changes that were approved by the second reading, the parties which were part of the coalition will also receive free advertising time, which will decrease the time for the other qualified political subjects.

The non-parliamentary opposition says the amendments are unfair, and will affect their pre-election campaigning as they will not be able to properly inform voters of their intentions, especially when they do not have enough finances to pay for advertisements.

Mamuka Katsitadze, a representative of the non-parliamentary opposition, said that after meeting with the President last week that the President should veto the changes if Parliament approves them.

Meanwhile, member of the ruling majority Zakaria Kutsnashvili says that “every day, a free 28 seconds for advertisements should be enough for qualified subjects to inform voters about their goals and priorities.”

Parliament has only three readings. However, the first and the second readings are essential, as the third includes only some superficial changes.

Transparency International Georgia believes the current draft is not fair, and the political players should agree on a more just division of broadcast time.

The NGO also says that the new rule should maintain the overall duration of free advertisements in order to avoid an unmanageable burden on TV stations.