Rejecting violence: New laws on pre-election behavior to be initiated
By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, July 16
After several clashes between activists of the Georgian Dream coalition and National Movement supporters in the village of Shida Kartli, the ruling party decided to lay down some rules pertaining to campaign behavior ahead of the parliamentary elections. The United National Movement (UNM) has proposed to create a single declaration of rules of behavior before the elections, said MP Pavle Kublashvili, just after the inter-agency group session on July 13.
UNM’s law writer MP Kublashvili explained, that the document would define the campaign's main issues concerning the outlawing of violence and bribery, as well as the observation of legal norms by all political parties.
In particular, four points in the declaration call on political parties to cease from using violence during the election campaign, not to hinder the campaign of other parties while planning their own, to avoid aggression in public during campaigns, as well as to reject the use of hate speech in relation to Georgia’s ethnic minority.
The document strictly bans voter bribery, and it also obliges political parties to strictly adhere to the recommendations of NGOs and intergovernmental committees regarding the use of administrative resources. It also calls on political parties to share responsibility in the recognition of election results determined by the Central Elections Commission and other trustworthy observing organizations.
“I think this is a very important document that should be joined by all political parties. The document is aimed at holding free and fair elections,” said Kublashvili. Hopefully all parties will sign the document which, according to him, will be prepared in the near future.
The opposition spectrum is not quite consolidated regarding the proposed declaration. The New Rights, Christian Democrats, and National Democrats agreed to sign it; the Georgian Dream however, will announce its decision after it has been discussed at the political council session.
“The coalition’s political council will discuss the declaration and a decision will be made afterwards. We agree on the principles of the declaration, as all the points of the declaration are basically restricted by law. However, each point should be a subject for detailed discussion,” said Georgian Dream Chairperson Manana Kobakhidze.
“We all have a common interest to successfully pass the test of elections in autumn, and accordingly, if we want to pass it successfully, violence should be avoided, as well as vote bribing,” said the Christian Democrat leader, Giorgi Akhvlediani.
The New Rights Party is also ready to sign the document. Manana Nachkebia said that the government should ensure safety and order during the election campaigns. “However political parties also should assume this responsibility– that is why we are going to join and sign the declaration,” said Nachkebia.
Guram Chakhvadze, one of the leaders of the National Democratic Party (NDP) and loyal to the UNM, has agreed to sign the document. According to him, the NDP will be involved in the document’s creative process. “It is very important to create [and implement] the monitoring mechanisms of the pre-election behavior code,” said Chakhvadze, adding that it should become a prerogative of non-governmental organizations.
Giga Bokeria, the Head of Security Council, said after the inter-agency group meeting, that police would accompany the pre-election campaigns in order to ensure order and security.
“We agreed at today’s session that policemen will attend meetings of political parties, and generally, political parties will refrain from violence during pre-election campaigning,” Bokeria said
As for the document, initiated by the ruling National Movement party, that will define rules of behavior in pre-election period, Bokeria said this document would have a positive influence on the pre-election climate.
Analyst Demur Giorkhelidze believes that the UNM’s proposed declaration is part of a PR campaign. “There are no specific rules of the pre-election campaign in a normal country, as it is defined by legislation and certain regulations accepted by society. In atypical states like Georgia, the government, which neglects the law and the constitution, is attempting to launch conjuncture considerations and apply initiatives towards creating the illusion of the amelioration of a non-competitive election environment. It is obvious that the government’s satellite parties will hail this declaration and accept it with great pleasure,” said Giorkhelidze.