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The News in Brief

Tuesday, April 15
Georgia’s Government guarantees free and fair election

The Government of Georgia is guaranteeing the upcoming local self-government election will be free, fair and transparent.

The importance of a transparent electoral environment was emphasized by Vice Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze after a Government session on Monday.

"I think the upcoming election should held in a calm atmosphere. I experienced the condition we were working in during the past parliamentary election in 2012 and how the Georgian Dream supporters and party members were persecuted. It was unacceptable for everyone and is still undesirable.

"We guarantee that the government will do everything possible to ensure a free and fair election. In such an environment as it was during the presidential elections,” Kaladze announced.

Meanwhile, for free and fair elections to be held, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili called on the country’s law enforcement agencies not to detain or apply any other form of legal restrictions on activists or political figures involved in the upcoming local self-government election.

Earlier that day the Georgian Government approved the June 15 election date, which was formally issued by the President of Georgia.

Georgia may limit questioning of politicians ahead of election

Georgia’s Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani wants guidelines for criminal investigations involving people running in the local election in June.

Tsulukiani did not explain more specifically what kind of rules it will be beyond calling for ‘recommendations’. She said members of a newly created inter-agency election commission have to discuss this issue and then decide.

National Movement, the party which ran Georgia as a de facto one-party state for almost a decade but lost power in 2012, accuses the government of interference in its election campaign.

Party members who are active in the campaign have been summoned for questioning for things they did while in power, such as embezzlement, and the UNM claims that these criminal investigations are a form of political pressure on them by the coalition now in power, Georgian Dream, rather than attempts at cleaning up real crimes.

At the inter-agency commission’s meeting on Friday, UNM members asked for a reaction to what they claim is a politicized justice system, although while in power, the UNM used to scoff at suggestions that the justice system was politicized.

Before the last election under UNM rule, in October 2012, the main opposition force, Georgian Dream, was subject to many legal moves, such as the revoking of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s citizenship and the attacks on his Cartu Bank.

The system with having an inter-agency commission to handle election violations was begun during Saakashvili’s rule and the first chair was Giga Bokeria, former Secretary of the Security Council. Because of his authority and influence it was possible to solve certain problems like preventing opposition activists from holding meetings, summoning them for questioning or threatening them.

Before the presidential election in 2013, the inter-agency commission recommended not questioning people who were actively participating in election processes.

Tsulukiani said this year’s recommendations will be prepared in a few days.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Maya Panjikidze says that few observers will arrive for local self-government elections

Foreign Minister Maya Panjikidze presumes a large number of observers will no longer arrive for the local elections in Georgia unlike in the previous elections.

As Panjikidze said after the governmental meeting the above-mentioned is conditioned by the fact that Georgia’s prestige has been enhanced and our country’s elections have much higher confidence today. In addition, Panjikidze said invitations had already been sent to international organizations with regard to observation of Georgia’s electoral process.

"First invitations were sent as early as late last year, and then we sent invitations after a presumable election date became known. We have not received any replies so far, but it is important that Georgia’s prestige has been enhanced and our country’s elections have much higher confidence today. Therefore, we believe that not as many observers will arrive in our country this time as it was during the previous elections," Panjikidze said.

She said the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights may not send observers.

"ODIHR may not send observers since local self-government elections are beyond their competence’, the Minister said.

Anti-Russia rally outside government office in Tbilisi

An anti-Russia rally outside the government office in Tbilisi Sunday demanded a ban on organizations cooperating with Russia and making it a crime to publicly deny that Russia is an aggressor.

The rally was called ‘No to collaboration! No to cooperation with the enemy!’

Organizers say the reason it was held was because of recent pro-Russian activities in Georgia.

“Representatives of Russia financed political parties and organizations regularly visit Moscow where they have criminal negotiations with official bodies of the occupant country about the future of Georgia,” they explain, adding that it was necessary to unite against collaborative organizations and marginalize them.

A group called Iveria was behind the rally. Several well-known National Movement politicians were seen attending. Grigol Vashadze, a former foreign minister from the National Movement party says the rally was a response to events in Ukraine and is directed against pro-Russian forces in Georgia.

He said he thinks that if it continues Georgia may witness a Ukraine scenario in the future; that is why it is necessary for society to react.

Nika Rurua, former culture minister from the National Movement, said that the government must do its best not to let these organizations promote further the interests of Russia.

Iveria wants the government to prohibit organizations which are cooperating with Russia, and prepare a bill making it a crime to publicly deny Russian aggression against Georgia, occupation of part of a sovereign country and ethnic cleansing by Russia in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Further they demand a prohibition on the public display of Russian symbols, to control the process of Georgians getting Russian citizenship and prohibit the broadcasting of Russian TV channels in Georgia.
(Democracy & Freedom Watch)