Elections: TI Georgia on Use of Administrative Resources

On October 26, Transparency International (TI) Georgia, a local watchdog, released an interim report on alleged cases of the use of enforcement, legislative, institutional and financial administrative resources for election purposes, covering a period from July 1 to October 20.

Regarding enforcement administrative resources, the CSO said that the number of violent acts, including attacks on party supporters, has been growing since the second half of September, particularly in southern municipalities of Bolnisi and Marneuli. Police launched investigations into 59 cases, out of which 53 are still ongoing, the watchdog noted, adding that police came under criticism for low rates of investigated cases. According to the report, police were even less effective in probing the seven alleged cases of property damage against political parties.

According to the watchdog, there were also reports of three politically motivated dismissals from state-funded bodies in the reporting period.

Forming district and precinct election commissions remained a problem, as some ruling party-affiliated commission members were appointed in violation of the law, the report said. 

TI Georgia said that investigative bodies were used to discredit the opposition, including the former ruling party. According to the watchdog, the pre-election context, signs of selective approach in investigations and “populist remarks by the ruling party leaders breaching the presumption of innocence,” raised doubts that the “Cartographers’ Case investigations served election purposes.

The report also brought up another similar case, when “Giorgi Vashadze – Strategy Agmashenebeli” party was fined by more than GEL 100,000 (USD 31,000) since June for erecting tents to collect signatures for a legislative proposal. According to the watchdog, the party’s actions were fully compatible with the Law of Georgia on Assemblies and Demonstrations.

Concerning the use of legislative administrative resources, the report said that, despite improvements, election legislation still contains some provisions that serve the interests of the ruling party, including the unfair procedure of forming election commissions. Controversial regulations to ensure the election participation of persons self-isolated and quarantined due to COVID-19 also raised questions, the watchdog added.

Regarding institutional administrative resources, TI Georgia pointed at the practices to use state-funded projects for agitation purposes, including arranging visits to these projects.

According to the interim report, there were also cases of mobilizing civil servants for campaign meetings, as well as cases of illegal agitations, including through social media posts by civil servants of local municipalities in favor of the ruling Georgian Dream party. The watchdog added that the Central Election Commission (CEC) ignored such violations and did not see alleged social media agitations as subject to CEC regulations.

As for the use of financial administrative resources, according to TI Georgia, no change in the state budget has been detected significant enough to amount to a violation of the Election Code of Georgia. However, the CSO spoke of the election-motivated expenses, including up to 20 social programs as part of the government’s COVID-19 response efforts that will “affect election environment.” The watchdog noted that Georgian legislation has a very narrow understanding of the use of administrative resources for election purposes and many issues are often left unregulated.

TI Georgia will release the final report on the use of administrative resources for election purposes after the parliamentary elections.

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