Several businesses offered discounts to customers who participated in voting on July 12th.
By Tatia Megeneishvili
Monday, July 14
A commercial appeared on television two-days earlier. The commercial announced that several companies had united under a common goal and urged voters to go to the polls, pass the marking process and enjoy special discounts at their venues. In particular, they were offered a 20% discount at McDonald's and Wendy’s, 22% discount in pharmacies PSP, Aversi and GPC, a 15% discount at Goodwill and Smart and a 5-tetri discount per 1 liter of gasoline at Gulf and Wissol.
The media tried, but could not find out who was the one who offered the idea originally. This fact raised different questions among society. Was it really the good will of private businesses or was it pressure by the government? How much would the discount really have an effect on voter activity? And why exactly for the second round only?
The Central Election Commission (CEC) welcomed the initiative from businesses. According to the spokesperson of the CEC, Eka Azarashvili, the discount program fits within the framework of Georgian legislation. Azarashvili said that the commission was not engaged in the implementation of this plan.
“I saw the election ad, which seems to encourage an increase in voter turnout. Businesses want to use it for commercial purposes. This is not banned by legislation. We are not engaged in it however. This is an idea the businesses thought up. We welcome any action that increases voter turnout. It is a positive action. If businesses use it for commercial purposes, it is not our business,” Azarashvili stated.
One of the first who decided to take advantage of the extra discount was member of the United National Movement (UNM), Goga Khachidze. However, as he claimed later, his attempts were unsuccessful. According to Khachidze, he was not able to use his discount neither with Gulf nor Wissol filling station. He uploaded the video as proof.
“I am almost sure that it was a government initiative… the fuel companies refused to decrease the price and suddenly they decided to offer a discount,” Khachidze stressed.
U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland responded saying: “I know some interest has also been expressed in this discount concept for voters, and it's actually a very interesting idea, we may want to incorporate that into our own practices in the United States. But, so far we are not clear on how that campaign originated. We noticed the CEC commented that it did not see any concerns about this. We'll be interested in learning about all the factors that went into the July 12 election”, Norland said.
Mayoral candidate of Georgian Dream coalition, Davit Narmania, stated after the voting that if he had time he would have been happy to take an opportunity and enjoy some extra discounts on goods.
Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili also responded and stated that he is not going to use the discount, but he welcomes such initiatives.
“I assure you, the government had no influence on this,” Gharibashvili said.
Vice President, Head of Marketing and PR Department at Gulf, Nino Jibladze, stated that on weekends in the summer, the company does not have many customers, “but today we had high activity,” Jibladze stressed.