Transparency International Georgia Reports Major Election Campaign Violations
By Salome Modebadze
Friday, September 14The use of the state's legal and institutional resources for political and election purposes, political pressure on the opposition and cases of vote bribing are the focus of Transparency International (TI) Georgia’s report released on September 12th.
12 cases of alleged intimidation of opposition activists by groups affiliated with the ruling United National Movement (UNM) party, five cases of actual physical attacks against opposition activists, the use of legal resources for political and electoral purposes by the ruling party, disproportionate sanctions imposed on opposition parties for violations of the law, and obstruction of opposition party activities have been studied by TI Georgia for the period from October 1, 2011 to August 1, 2012.
“The most commonly identified problems were those encountered by the opposition coalition Georgian Dream, particularly during the months of June and July 2012. In the majority of these cases, local government officials tried to prevent coalition meetings by using a combination of actual physical force and verbal provocation,” TI Georgia reports.
The report also cited government use of institutional resources for political purposes. Two examples cited in the report were civil servants illegally campaigning for the ruling United National Movement and government paid television advertisements emphasizing the current ruling party's achievements. Several cases of obvious vote-buying by both the ruling and opposition parties were also mentioned in the report.
TI Georgia thinks that an agreement concerning amendments to the Election Code signed by the ruling party and several oppositional political parties in June 2011 was not enough “to remove anti-competitive obstacles in the election environment.”
The report states that the legislative changes limited not only the political parties but ordinary citizens and organizations supporting various political parties. Although properly used sanctions can compel political parties and officials to reject illicit financing and bring greater accountability and transparency to the political process TI said “disproportionate enforcement and the imposition of excessive fines” by the State Audit Office (SAO) led to abuse of regulatory resources, causing serious problems for political parties and leading in some cases to complete paralysis of their political activities.
A highly selective approach to various political parties' financial activities, fines for unpaid donations, illegally seized property and illegal actions against Kartu Bank by the Interim Government-installed Executive were among the questionable SAO activities cited in the report.
Calling SAO “the worst offender” TI Georgia said it has enforced a number of controversial and illegal decisions. To ensure transparency and adherence to the law TI said the financial activities of all political entities should be made public. “In this respect, the selective approach to publishing financial reports of the political parties only is a further example of the government’s improper use of regulatory resources,” the statement reads.
TI Georgia’s Project Manager Levan Natroshvili said there is a wide range of problems in the country needing to be addressed while its Executive Director Eka Gigauri said the state interagency commission should learn all the facts in detail and adequately respond.
The Messenger could not reach the UNM spokesperson to comment on the violations cited in the report but a spokesperson of the State Audit Office told us that the SAO is familiar with the report and will comment on the issue on their official web page if they consider it necessary.