On 25 September 2013, following the meeting with the delegation of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Shalva Natelashvili stated with regard to the course of his presidential campaign: “They bereft us of our offices in all districts, eradicated our budgetary funding and banned us from the advantage of free TV advertisements.”FactCheck
set out to check the accuracy of Shalva Natelashvili’s statement.
In the given statement Shalva Natelashvili accuses the government of placing the Georgian Labour Party in a discriminatory state. Discussing the matter Natelashvili employs such terms as “bereft,” “eradicated” and “banned” which imply a deliberate action, in our case a discriminatory action, with a specific purpose. Therefore, we inquired whether or not the state had committed any deliberate discriminatory acts against the Georgian Labour Party.
Matters related to the transparency of assets, funding and election campaign expenditures of a political party are regulated by the Organic Law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens. Pursuant to Part 1 of Article 25 of the Law a party’s property is made up of:
a) Membership fees,
b) Donations by individual persons and legal entities,
c) State funds when so prescribed by law and
d) Income received from producing and distributing party symbols, holding lectures and exhibitions and other similar events as well as publications and other activity as determined by the party’s statute, provided that such yearly income does not exceed the double value of the minimum basic funding.
The pathos behind Shalva Natelashvili’s statement entails that the act of depriving the Labour Party of budgetary funding constituted an illegitimate undertaking. The indicated funding falls under Paragraph c of the abovementioned norm (Article 25 Part 1 of the Organic Law on Political Unions of Citizens) and so the budgetary funding represents the funds allocated by the state directly to a party. The norm distinctly clarifies “when so prescribed by the law”, therefore we should determine whether or not Shalva Natelashvili’s party was entitled to the budgetary funding by the law.
The allocation of Georgian state funds to political parties is carried out in accordance with Article 30 of the Organic Law on Political Unions of Citizens. Part 2 of the Article reads:
“Funds from the state budget, which are to be directly distributed among political parties, shall go to the political parties which, during the last parliamentary elections or the last local self-government elections, overcame the 3% threshold.” In Article 30’s 2005 edition, funding was allotted “to political parties which, during the last parliamentary elections, overcame the 4% threshold.” In its 2008 edition, budgetary funding was provided “to political parties which, during the last parliamentary elections, overcame the 4% threshold or parties, which during the last local self-government elections, overcame the 3% threshold.”The latest, 2013, edition of the Article can be regarded as the most liberal from those discussed above as the threshold for the parliamentary as well as the local self-government elections has been lowered to 3%.
The Labour Party has been receiving the budgetary funding envisaged by the Law on Political Unions of Citizens based on the results of the previous elections (for instance, based on the results of the 2004 parliamentary elections in which the party received 6.01% of the votes as well as based on the parliamentary elections of 2008 when the party received the support from 7.44% of the voters).
As for the present situation, the Labour Party has not taken part in the local self-government elections of 2010 while in the parliamentary elections of 2012 it received 1.24%.Owing to these results, the Georgian Labour Party did not satisfy the requirements stipulated by the law and so the reason for the suspension of the budgetary funding becomes evident. In actual fact no “eradication” took place on the side of the state and, solely, the due enforcement of the legislative norm took place.In his statement Shalva Natelashvili also mentions that the offices of the Labour Party had been taken away. During the telephone conversation with a FactCheck
journalist on 10 October 2013, the candidate clarified, however, that he was alluding to the suspension of the budgetary funding when mentioning the abstraction of offices. That is to say, the matter of being “bereft” of offices is linked to the “eradication of the budgetary funding” as the renting of office space was hindered due to the absence of the state funding.
It becomes apparent from all the abovementioned that the government played no part either in the suspension of funding for the Labour Party or in the party being deprived of offices in some regions.
We further analyse the last part of Natelashvili’s statement in which the candidate refers to being banned from free TV advertisements. Information support for carrying out a pre-election campaign is regulated by Article 51 of the Election Code of Georgia. Paragraph 2 of the Article obligates a general broadcaster to transmit pre-election debates in a non-discriminatory manner and with the participation of all qualified elections subjects. Paragraph 5 of the same Article compels a broadcaster transmitting the election advertising to allocate to each qualified election subject the time lasting for 90 seconds every three hours free-of-charge and without discrimination. Consequently, the question we are faced with now is whether or not Shalva Natelashvili’s party represents a qualified election subject. Paragraph 7 of Article 51 defines the qualified election subject for presidential elections to be a candidate nominated by political unions and who receives funding from the Georgian state budget pursuant to Article 30 of the Organic Law on Political Unions of Citizens based on the outcome of the last parliamentary or local self-government elections.
As noted above, the Labour Party does not meet the requirements stipulated in Article 30 of the Organic Law on Political Unions of Citizens and, therefore, is denied the budgetary funding. Consequently, the candidate put forth by the party, Shalva Natelashvili, does not represent a qualified election subject. The Central Election Commission published the list of qualified election subjects entitled to free TV air time for the presidential elections of 27 October 2013. Shalva Natelashvili was not among those seven presidential candidates who were recognised as qualified election subjects and, therefore, does not receive TV air time free-of-charge.
Part 8 of Article 51 of the Election Code of Georgia suggests an alternative way of attaining free air and advertising time on TV for unqualified election subjects. Pursuant to this Article, a broadcaster is authorised to recognise as a qualified election subject the political party which, according to the public opinion poll conducted within the whole territory of Georgia in compliance with the terms set forth by this Article, has gained not less than 4% of the votes in not less than five public opinion polls held during the election year or in an opinion poll held no later than a month before the elections.Aiming to find out whether or not Shalva Natelashvili had taken advantage of the aforementioned right, we contacted the PR Manager of the Labour Party, Ketevan Dolidze. As she reported, the Labour Party had not addressed any broadcaster or presented results of any sort of opinion polls. The broadcaster is not compelled to attain opinion poll results on its own and declare a specific political party as a qualified election subject. Even in the case of such results being presented by the party, Paragraph 8 of Article 51 only authorises the broadcaster and does not lay down any obligations. FactCheck
has previously examined Nino Burjanadze’s statement with regard to free TV air or advertising times.
Conclusion The Georgian Labour Party does not meet the requirements of the Organic Law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens and is legitimately denied the budgetary funding. Accordingly, Shalva Natelashvili does not represent a qualified election subject and in accordance with the Election Code of Georgia does not have the benefit of free air time. Shalva Natelashvili could have taken advantage of the right given to unqualified election subjects with regard to free TV air and advertising times although this was disregarded. On a whole, the facts of the offices being taken away, funding being eradicated and TV advertisements banned are not verified. Consequently, Shalva Natelashvili’s statement: “They bereft us of our offices in all districts, eradicated our budgetary funding and banned us from the advantage of free TV advertisements,” is FALSE.-Nodar Chachanidze