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Ugulava campaign used Government computers, Media Centre says

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, April 29
Internet records suggest that the ruling party's Mayoral candidate Gigi Ugulava has used state resources to launch his campaign website, said the Georgian International Media Centre on April 27.

Ugulava’s was officially nominated for Tbilisi Mayor on April 26 and his campaign website was launched the following day. However the Georgian International Media Centre says that, "The website appears to have initially been hosted on computers belonging to the Government. Perhaps because the Government realised that this was easy to trace Ugulava's campaign has since tried to cover its tracks and wipe out the signs that it used state resources. However we have documentary proof that computers allocated to a Ministry in Tbilisi were used.

"Ugulava's website features a host of social media tools alongside video clips and is translated into English and Russian as well as Georgian. A simple “ping” test showed that it was hosted by internet (IP) address That IP address is shared with the official "I love Tbilisi" website - and internet records show that it is owned by the Georgian Ministry of Finance,” said the Media Centre. However the site has now apparently disappeared from view, and the Centre concludes that Ugulava's campaign team will have it pop up on another computer network and hope no one will notice.

Georgian oppositional representatives were not surprised by this statement. "We, not only opposition members but the whole of, Georgia, should give an adequate response to such behaviour by the authorities. Numerous violations of the law are taking place at Tbilisi City Hall. Mayor's office representatives never make documents concerning tenders or building activities public, especially financial documents. They have just built a bridge but no one knows how much money was spent on it. Of course it is very difficult to fight against this Government, but we must, if necessary, ensure that these kinds of violations are discussed in Strasbourg,” Petre Mamradze, from the National Council, told The Messenger.

“There is nothing unexpected in this statement, as we have been saying from the beginning that Ugulava began his campaign long before his official nomination, while the Government is talking about holding free and democratic elections in the country. As long as the present Government is in power, nothing positive or democratic can be expected in Georgia. It should be replaced and Georgian citizens should understand the importance of this. He has broken the law by doing this, but I am sure this means nothing for Ugulava and the Government, as there is no free court in Georgia and consequently no threat of punishment for them,” Zurab Abashidze from Alliance for Georgia told The Messenger.

Government representatives state that Ugulava has not used state or Government resources in his campaign and both the Government and Ugulava are doing their best to hold free and democratic elections. They connect strong opposition statements about Ugulava with their expected failure in the upcoming elections.

The Messenger asked the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), which is actively involved in election processes, what the law says about using administrative resources in an election campaign. "Unfortunately, and we consider that this is not right, the present Georgian law does not disallow using administrative resources. All candidates can use them, but all should have an equal opportunity to do so. Sanctions can only be applied if one candidate uses more administrative resources than others, but this must be proven. As for the International Centre, unfortunately I cannot say how reliable its information is,” Nino Lomjaria from GYLA said.