Civil servants at pre-election rally and counter rally in Zugdidi
On 11 September, a pre-election campaign meeting of the United National Movement’s (UNM) candidate – David Bakradze - took place in Zugdidi. Members and supporters of the party attended the meeting. Simultaneously, representatives of Defend Georgia held a rally against the UNM.
Unlike the primaries on 20 July, no violence from the side of groups critical of the UNM was reported on 11 September. However, representatives of Transparency International Georgia observed that the 11 September campaign meeting was attended by staff of the Zugdidi Local City Council, including by Temur Basilaia, head of staff of the Council, Bartlome Shelia, head of Material and Technical Supply Division of the Council, Levan Makatsaria, head of Social Affairs Division of the Council, and Anna Tsitlidze, chief specialist at Legal Affairs Division of the Council. The simultaneous anti-UNM rally, led by Kakha Mikaia, a member of “Defend Georgia”, was attended by Edem Kekutia, head of municipality of the village of Chkhori in the Zugdidi region, and Nukri Jichonaia, chief specialist at the Zugdidi City Municipality. These individuals are civil servants of the local municipal bodies. Therefore, the Election Code bans them from conducting or participating in pre-election campaigns during business hours (Article 45(4)(h) of the Election Code). Due to the fact that the rally was taking place during business hours (it started at 16.00 o’clock), the civil servants violated the Election Code, which entails a fine of 2,000 GEL. We call on the Central Election Commission to take the necessary steps.
Several notable facts: the police force was fully mobilized; the area of the rally was protected by double barriers; policemen were standing by the barriers and were not allowing individuals in; on the side where the UNM’s supports were, the police created a corridor; each participant in the rally was checked to see if they were holding a bottle or other item that could have been thrown at others; drunk individuals were also not allowed into the area.
Transparency International Georgia calls on civil servants employed in the local municipal bodies not to use business hours for political activities, including supporting their favored presidential candidate and protesting in rallies. In addition, we emphasize that the police managed to undertake effective preventive measures for protecting the political party members and their supporters, and for the campaign meeting to take place in a peaceful and secure manner.