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Transparency International reports election violations

By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, May 12
The second interim monitoring report on the misuse of administrative resources during the election campaign released by Transparency International Georgia records fewer instances of such violations than usual. It states that there have been fewer during the current campaign than there were in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in 2008, but nevertheless the general picture is still far from positive.

The report focuses on the four main types of misuse of administrative resources: coercive, financial, material-technical and human, covering the period March 15 to May 5. Many instances of the use of coercive resources have been reported. The most perturbing of these involve pressure being put on voters and opposition activists and candidates, these being especially common in the regions. These violations include forcing an opposition party candidate to withdraw from the elections, public officials being forced to attend the ruling party’s campaign events and opposition activists being prevented from campaigning.

Most of the reported violations have been committed by the authorities. “On 3 March, the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti Governor, the military police chief, a high-ranking officer from the Kodori Police Department, Mestia's MP, the head of Mestia's administration, the regional head of the Financial Police and other representatives of the authorities, accompanied by a special unit of police (approximately 40-50 people), summoned the Freedom Party's candidates (both the single member seat candidate and the party list candidates) to the administration building between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. and forced them to withdraw from the elections. All five individuals who were summoned officially withdrew from the race that night, “the report says.

The report describes instances of transport being hindered in Georgian villages, bribery, misuses of financial resources such as increasing the number of staff and size of salaries in particular regions and villages, pressure being applied to prisoners’ families and pressure being put on final year pupils who have voting rights, who were threatened with being called up for the Army before they could apply to university if they did not vote a certain way.

The use of the “I Love Tbilisi” logo, created as part of the so-called Tbilisi rebranding campaign sponsored by the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office, in the ruling party’s election literature is also an issue. The Mayor’s Office says that it does not own the copyright to this logo and anyone can use it. The report says however that since the “I Love Tbilisi” logo has been used at the launch of Mayor’s Office projects it is associated with the Mayor’s Office in the public mind. A document adopted at the 1990 Copenhagen Conference states that there must be a clear distinction between the state and political parties.

Transparency International Georgia continues to monitor election activities and will present its findings to the public on two more occasions prior to the actual elections. After the elections TI Georgia will publish a final report containing a summary of all violations and problems recorded during the monitoring process which will offer recommendations on how to prevent them in future.