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NGOs say enforcement of pre-election activities unbalanced

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, August 13
NGOs operating in Georgia within the framework of the movement It Affects You, have appealed to international observers, international organizations and the diplomatic corps to make every effort to improve the election environment in Georgia and to provide timely and appropriate assessments of all repressive actions undertaken by state agencies in this regard.

NGOs have been monitoring the pre-election process since January 1, 2012 and say activities pursued by state agencies towards the work of political parties are “unprecedented” in terms of their intensity and scale.

“Cases examined by us allow us to conclude that the work of state agencies from the pre-election point of view is too subjective, aimed at harassment of oppositional parties and the main oppositional coalition(Georgian Dream) in particular,” the joint statement reads.

The NGOs emphasize that the State Audit Agency has ignored almost all serious violations carried out by the ruling National Movement. They claim that a number of serious allegations pertaining to vote-buying, illegal contributions or the use of administrative resources by the ruling party have not been addressed.

“At its inception, the State Audit Service attempted to make its activities look more or less impartial, which they are no longer even trying to,” the statement reads, adding that such actions from the State Audit Agency side lead them to believe that the State Audit Service is actually serving as yet another leverage mechanism of the ruling party and its work falls short of political neutrality.

The NGOs touched upon concrete issues, including the State Audit Agency’s demand that oppositional leaders Bidzina Ivanishvili and Kakha Kaladze present their financial documents reflecting the withdrawal of funds from their bank accounts throughout 2012.

The NGOs underscore that the State Audit Agency does not have the right to demand such documentation.

“However, according to the Audit Service report, they have applied to court demanding the impoundment of Kakha Kaladze’s property and bank accounts. We are yet unaware of the legal grounds and substantiation of the State Audit Service’s demand. However, it is safe to say that if there are any links between these incidents, the demand to impound property owned by Kaladze is be completely unlawful and cannot be substantiated,” the statement reads.

The statement emphasizes that the court system is too loyal to the State Audit Agency and the Agency’s demands are too often satisfied by the court, even when their actions are not supported by any real arguments.

The State Audit Agency claims that Ivanishvili and Kaladze, individuals with specific political and electoral goals, have withdrawn unusually large amounts of cash from their bank accounts without indicating its intended use.

“Given their political activities, and in order to determine the intended use of the cash, the State Audit Office (SAO) addressed letters to Bidzina Ivanishvili and Kakhi Kaladze requesting that they present documentation of how the cash had been spent. This was in order to ensure that the millions of lari that had been withdrawn were not being dispensed in violation of Georgian law. The SAO’s request was rejected by both individuals,” SAO statement reads.

The SAO also emphasizes that their main objective is to prevent violations rather than to enforce punitive measures. “Therefore, the SAO has sent a second letter to each of these individuals requesting that they return the large amounts of cash to their personal accounts to ensure transparency in political finances,” SAO states.

With regard to the current administration using administrative resources, National Movement spokeswoman, Chiora Taktakishvili underscored that the UNM is carrying out “preventive measures” to avoid spending administrative resources.

“The lawyers of the National Movement have been actively involved in the training courses organized by Central Election Commission. The document concerning the use of administrative resources during the 2012 parliamentary elections has also been discussed in the framework of the training classes,” Taktakishvili stated.