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Don't misuse the budget for the election, says CEC

By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, May 11
Zurab Kharatishvili, Chairman of the Central Election Commission, held a briefing about the use of administrative resources during the election campaign on May 10. According to the CEC database budget incomes have increased during the election period. “The CEC appeals to the relevant structures not to launch projects which hadn’t previously been included in state and local budget projections and avoid initiating such expenditure during the election period,” Kharatashvili said, referring to the fact that unplanned transfers of budget funds for special projects violate the election code.

On May 7-8 fourteen political parties and five NGOs signed a memorandum on the use of administrative resources. All sides are aware of the importance of holding free and fair elections in which all the participants will have equal access to these. The CEC has stated that several political parties have complained about administrative resources being used and it will consider these complaints and announce its decisions publicly. It is discussing the same issues with regional offices and media representatives in order to identify possible further violations.

“The memorandum is important as it defines how to prevent any kind of abrogation during the election process. The CEC has received an appeal concerning an alleged violation from the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), which it will discuss and present to the signatories of the memorandum on May 13,” Juli Giorgadze, Head of the CEC Press Centre, told The Messenger.

Tamar Khidasheli, the Chair of GYLA, told The Messenger that the idea of signing a memorandum had first been raised in 2008. “We have such an awful Election Code in Georgia that we as NGOs wanted to clarify its specific articles. Unfortunately we were unable to convince the CEC to support our initiative,” Khidasheli told us. “It’s the court’s prerogative to define the law, but I doubt the code will be clarified even if it goes to court. “Administrative resources” is an established international term and international practice is that no individual or party engaged in an election should use state buildings, transport facilities, communication sources, webpages or anything, funded by the state budget, to conduct their election campaign with,” explained Khidasheli.

Khidasheli added that the current Georgian election code allows a candidate to use administrative resources if someone else has already done so. “This law is hard to enforce. If, for example, Gigi Ugulava uses a phone financed by the state budget, how can his opponents do the same? Will Ugulava let them make a call for election purposes? The Venice Commission and the OSCE have disapproved of such elements of the code in their reports, because they are impossible to apply fairly in practice,” she stated. The Chair of GYLA also spoke about the appeal it has made to the CEC, saying it refers to the project Kino Mania (Cinemania) launched by the Tbilisi City Hall Juvenile Affairs Monitoring Division. The project offers special benefits for students, enabling them to use special city hall discount cards at movie theatres giving them GEL 5 off each ticket. Khidasheli says that these tickets bear the number 5 used by the ruling party on the election ballot papers. “At a meeting with the Government Interdepartmental Commission, which consists of Deputy Ministers, Giga Bokeria shared our concerns about these tickets, but the only thing we can do now is wait for the CEC's decision on our appeal, which has to at least be legally sound,” concluded Khidasheli.

Meanwhile the Parliamentary Interfactional Monitoring Group on the Local Government Elections presented a list of electoral violations to the Government Interdepartmental Commission on the same day. These include instances of Government bodies misusing administrative resources and pressurising opposition activists reported by NGOs and opposition parties. “Each state official will be held responsible for any violations of the law they commit during the election period,” Guram Chakhvadze, National Democratic Party MP and Head of the Interfactional Monitoring Group stated. The group holds continual meetings with the CEC and the Government Interdepartmental Commission, at which the sides share concerns and discuss different issues.