Local Authorities’ Involvement in Party Campaigning
Recently, political parties' campaigns have taken place in tense circumstances. Confrontations during meetings with the residents of the regions are particularly alarming and, in some cases, are accompanied by verbal and physical abuses. The situation culminated on July 12, during a clash in Karaleti village, Gori municipality, where more than ten people, including journalists, were injured and hospitalized.
The campaign This Affects You Too, of which Transparency International Georgia is an active participant, responded to the recent events with an initiative to promote dialogue between parties. We believe that the responsibility for reducing tensions and ensuring public confidence in the election process rests on both the government and the political parties. Currently, securing safe conditions and peaceful conduct during the pre-election activities rests on local government. Though it is also an obligation of the government, limiting confrontations between parties also depends on mutual agreements between parties.
Paragraph 6 of article 45 of the "Election Code of Georgia" states that "Bodies of local self-government are obliged to encourage election subjects to organize and hold meetings and gatherings with voters, public debates and discussions, assemblies and manifestations and to ensure the safety of these events”. The main aim of the norm is to conduct the electoral process in a calm and stable environment, not only from the beginning of the election, but also as the election process continues. For the specific purpose of this article, local authorities may use any lawful methods, including the mobilization of police forces. The law instructs the police to "protect the rights of individuals and legal persons from unlawful attacks", and "to protect public order and the security."
It has been obvious that during the recent meetings of political parties, local authorities have not fulfilled their duties assigned by law, an example of unlawful police negligence - to prevent physical violence, and this is alarming.
Recently, during the pre-election meetings of Georgian Dream representatives, many assaults were acknowledged in five villages of Shida Kartli. It should be noted that besides residents and members of the opposition party, representatives of local authority were involved as well; they verbally and physically abused political leaders and journalists. Furthermore, according to one of our sources and relevant media reports, the local authorities were in charge of mobilizing and provoking the local population, including teachers and sportsmen. We offer the list of members of the local authority involved in the confrontations:
- July 12, Shida Kartli: The settlement of refugees in Karaleti
Levan Maisuradze (Trustee of the settlement). Brothers, Gogita and Giga Gochashvili (representatives of Eredvi and Qurta municipalities). Gia Chulukhadze (foreman of the refugee settlement). Vano Midodashvili, Beso Kakhnisvili (representatives of local authority). All of the above mentioned people were directly involved in physical confrontation.
- July 10, Shida Kartli: Shindisi village
Irma Papunashvili (a senior specialist of the local governance body), her son and friends shouted, interrupted the meeting and demanded the opposition leave the village.
- July 10, Shida Kartli: Noqozi village
Ilia Mindiashvili (Trustee), his two sisters and cousin’s wife gathered with supporters to meet Georgian dream activists, including Kakha Kaladze and Nineli Chankvetadze. As a result, they interrupted the meeting and demanded opposition to leave the territory.
- July 10, Shida Kartli: Variani village
Iza Kokauri (employee of the City Council, chief specialist of the local governance body), Tako Kokauri (his son, a teacher and a member of the Election Commission) – They were shouting, and they demanded the opposition leave the village and prevented the meeting from being held.
- June 26, Shida Kartli: Mereti village
Levan Bidzinashvili (Specialist at the Gori Municipality) participated in a physical confrontation and demonstrated active behavior. Vasiko Tevdorashvili (trustee of the Mereti territorial authority) argued with Irakli Alasania. Kakha Lomidze (trustee and the head of emergency department at the Governor's Office) participated in physical confrontation. Eldar Elbakidze (employee of the emergency service) participated in a physical confrontation. Other workers of the emergency service participated in physical confrontations as well. Mzia Turashvili (chief specialist of the Mereti territorial body) shouted and demanded that the activists leave the village. Gocha Gvimradze (status could not be identified) shouted and mobilized activists of the United National Movement party.
In addition to the mentioned facts, one more incident, with the participation of high central government official, has also happened. Namely:
- July 22, Kakheti: Lagodekhi Municipality
Goga Khachidze (Minister of Environment Protection of Georgia) aggressively demanded that the representatives of Georgian Dream let him pass to meet the leader of Georgian Dream, because he is a government Minister.
We call for:
- Local authorities - To comply with obligations imposed by law - Ensure the safety of electoral activities, facilitate the process and refrain from the use of aggression;
- The police – To ensure the safety of any kind of activity, protect rights and interests of the participants and to prevent any physical encroachments;
- Interagency Commission on free and fair elections – To respond to the illegal activities of public officials and to remind local authorities of their special roles and obligations, as well as to publish detailed report on disciplinary measures to be taken;
- Political parties - Not to hinder the activities of political opponents and to address their own activists to refrain from provocations. Also, in order to ensure safety, inform the relevant local government officials about planned events in advance.