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Additional points added to pre-election behavior legislation

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, July 17
The civil society organization (CSO) ‘It Affects You’ held a special press conference concerning the National Movement’s recently-voiced initiative on the rules of behavior taking place during the pre-election period on July 16. Various affiliated NGOs have underscored recent events in which the “harassment” of other parties has taken place in the country.

According to the movement, the initiative voiced by the ruling team is acceptable. However, the principles of such an agreement should not be dictated by a single political entity. Based on ‘It Affects You’, the document disseminated by the National Movement lacks points that will ensure fairness for all political players.

Instead of the four points put forth by the National Movement, the CSO countered, by adding 17 points for which all political forces should agree on in order to achieve a dignified pre-election environment inside the country.

Chief points for ensuring a proper pre- election environment include 1) undertaking actions that would prevent unethical behavior on behalf of a party activist or individuals belonging to one side 2) undertake concrete punitive actions in the case that such rules are violated, 3) ensure the provision of prior information concerning the planned events of a political party, 4) disallow partial observing organizations to be involved in a party’s actions; 5) do not bribe the voters and protect legislation with regard to this issue; 6) do not use administrative resources, 7) be focused on thematic political debates to enable society a chance to make an informed choice, 8) do not encourage violence, 9) encourage equal involvement of all media outlets and form equal working conditions for them, 10) do not misuse the media for political aims and for spreading disinformation.

The organization has also appealed to Georgia’s state structures to maintain their impartiality. One such appeal was targeted to the State Audit Agency, including a recommendation for the agency to be more focused on the prevention of violations rather than administering punitive actions.

When such an issue is discussed the question which frequently arises is related to fulfilling the obligations.

On The Messenger question: in the case that such an agreement is drafted and signed by the political parties, who will control the parties’ honesty and punish those who break the agreement? The representatives of the movement stated that local NGOs will ensure constant observation of the situation and any violations of the agreement and will react accordingly by informing the local and international community regarding the violations.

However, it should be noted that all points listed by the movement have always been topical issues for the NGOs. They have always pointed out the misuse of administrative resources, urges the State Audit Agency to be more impartial actor and have appealed to all political parties to refrain from violence. Unfortunately, a significant number of their recommendations are either ignored or not taken into consideration– especially by the ruling administration.

Head of the Young Lawyer’s Association, Tamar Chugoshvili, told The Messenger that unlike the former period, some differences are obvious. “In prior times, political parties did not even speak about creating such a document, the fact that such an initiative was voiced is already a positive fact,” Chugoshvili stated.

What were the motivations behind this initiative? As soon as the National Movement began pushing the idea of such a document, several Georgian analysts ascertained that the drafting of such a document on behalf of the ruling administration was a PR tactic with the implicit goal of communicating to the international community its concern for fair elections.

“Of course, such an aim from the ruling party cannot be excluded. However, there are NGOs that exist in the state to control this situation,” Head of Open Society Georgia, Keti Khutsishvili told The Messenger.

The United National Movement has proposed creating a single declaration of rules of behavior before the elections on July 13. The opposition spectrum is not quite consolidated regarding the proposed declaration. The New Rights, Christian Democrats, and National Democrats agreed to sign it, as for the other opposition parties, they are still discussing whether to sign it or not.