Study: Challenges for election campaign finance in Georgia
According to the OSCE Copenhagen Document, signatory states, including Georgia, agree to ensure political campaigning in a fair and free environment. The Venice Commission's Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters also establishes that equal opportunity shall be guaranteed for parties and candidates alike. To ensure this principle, the 2003 recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe calls for the states to consider adopting measures to prevent excessive funding, including through establishing limits on expenditures.
Several recent elections in Georgia demonstrate that the pre-election campaign expenditures of the political parties are increasing. In the 2020 parliamentary elections, campaign expenditures increased by 26% compared to the previous elections. In addition, the spending of the top-ranking political party amount to 40% of the total expenditures and exceed the expenditures of the electoral subject that ranked second 3.5 times, which illustrates an uneven distribution of election campaign finances.
The present study aimed to identify the financial challenges for the election campaigns of the political parties during the elections, as well as invisible barriers for regional politicians, women, representatives of ethnic minorities, and independent candidates. To achieve this aim, the study intended to differentiate the party revenues according to its sources; analyze donation schemes; identify the activities carried out by the electoral subjects to raise the campaign funds; compare election campaign expenditures according to the years, electoral subjects and categories of spending; analyze the attitudes toward supporting the women candidates in political parties; define how parties manage additional state funding obtained through internal party quotas; and analyze the policy toward supporting the candidates representing the ethnic minorities.
The objects of the study were the declarations of the electoral funds published by the SAO, monitoring reports, party statutes, representatives of the political parties, registered SMD candidates in the 2020 parliamentary elections, and party and independent mayor candidates participating in the 2021 municipal elections.
The report of the present study consists of five chapters. The first and second chapters review the revenues and expenditures of the election campaigns of the political parties and their nominated candidates. The third chapter examines the challenges and financial turnover of independent candidates. The last two chapters are dedicated to analyzing the economic policy of the political parties concerning incentivizing women and the representatives of ethnic minorities.