TBILISI -- In an ongoing stand-off between the ruling Georgian Dream party and opposition parties refusing to take their seats in parliament, Georgian lawmakers have approved the first reading of a bill that withholds state funding for parties boycotting parliament.
Six of the eight opposition parties that gained entrance to parliament in the October 31 elections have requested their mandates be suspended, saying the poll was rigged and new elections must be held.
Georgian Dream initiated the bill, according to which political parties that refuse to take up at least half of their parliamentary seats will lose state funding.
Lawmaker Tea Tsulukiani said after the December 23 vote that the legislation had nothing to do with the opposition parties' current boycott of parliament.
Deputies also agreed that the second reading of the bill will be debated after it is assessed by the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and the Venice Commission.
The first session of the newly elected parliament was held without the opposition parties' representatives since December 11.
The Central Election Commission announced final results showing Georgian Dream, founded by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, took 48.22 percent of the vote. The opposition United National Movement bloc got 27.18 percent and European Georgia was third with 3.79 percent.
Six other smaller opposition parties also crossed the 1 percent threshold to enter parliament.
Four rounds of U.S. and EU-brokered talks between the ruling Georgian Dream and opposition parties to find a compromise on the issue have failed to yield any results so far.