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TIG releases report on misuse of administrative resources during elections

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, December 25
Transparency International Georgia (TIG) released a summary report on December 24 on the use of executive, legal, institutional, and financial administrative resources for the October 31 parliamentary elections. The report covers the period from July 1 to November 22.

According to the document, TIG assessed the changes in the election legislation in 2020 mainly positively. However, it also says that "there are still some major problems in the election legislation that work in favor of the ruling party and which the government has not shown the political will to solve." Among such issues, the organization named the unfair rule of staffing election commissions and the improper procedure of selecting commission members on a professional basis.

According to the organization, "during the reporting period, there was a tendency to use several types of institutional administrative resources, including the use of state-funded projects in agitation, mobilization of public servants and illegal agitation.

As for the use of state-funded projects in campaigning: The practice of visiting various public or private projects funded by the state or local budget by the ruling party's election candidates has become a trend. Such cases were recorded throughout the country and did not contribute to the existence of a clear boundary between the state and the ruling party in the run-up to the elections. Regarding the mobilization of public servants: As in previous elections, mobilization of employees of budgetary organizations for pre-election meetings was observed in the reporting period. In terms of illegal campaigning: There have also been several cases of alleged illegal campaigning. Similar to the previous elections, the election commissions still did not recognize the cases of overt campaigning on the personal pages of social networks as electoral agitation.

The NGO says that the ineffective investigation of violence, the politicization of public institutions, including election commissions, and the mobilization of employees of budgetary organizations by the ruling party for Georgia’s parliamentary election campaigns remain unchanged from election to election.

Noting that in response to the economic crisis caused by the spread of the coronavirus in the country, the ruling party presented "up to 20 socio-economic initiatives", the organization said that among these initiatives were several projects that "can be included in the category of uniquely motivated election costs."

Speaking of election-related violent incidents, the organization noted that as of October 20, investigations had been launched into 59 cases, investigations into 6 cases had been terminated, and investigations into the remaining 53 cases were still ongoing; updated statistics after October 20 have not been made public by the MIA. Violent incidents were especially frequent in the municipalities of Marneuli, Bolnisi, and Dmanisi from the second half of September.

TIG also noted that "it was problematic for law enforcement officers to use water cannons against demonstrators gathered outside the CEC building on November 8 without proper reason and warning, during which several people were injured."

Underscoring that the imbalance in the summary protocols of the precinct commissions raised suspicions of election fraud, the organization said that "the vast majority of complaints and lawsuits filed by various entities remained unresolved and were not satisfied."

The report also states that the prosecutor's office was used to try to discredit the United National Movement. According to the organization, the pre-election context, the signs of a selective approach to the investigation, and the "populist statements made by the ruling party leaders in violation of the presumption of innocence" raise suspicions that the so-called "cartographers' case" serves election purposes.

"Also, as in the previous elections, secret audio recordings with the participation of leaders of opposition political parties were released. The purpose of disseminating the records seems to have been to discredit these individuals. This time, too, there was a legitimate suspicion that the recordings were created by special services and disseminated through foreign websites," the report reads.

Among many other recommendations, TIG wrote that investigative bodies should investigate the cases containing alleged violence and pressure against the parties involved in the election, vote-buying, and other signs of crimes as soon as possible; the MIA should proactively and promptly publish information on the progress and results of election-related investigations; the Prosecutor’s Office and the State Security Service of Georgia should remain as far away from political processes as possible and they should not be used to discredit any political force for electoral purposes.