Has a member of the Rustavi City Council engaged in vote buying?
On 11 June 2012, the Chamber of Control of Georgia (CCG) issued a statement saying that they had studied the information related to the distribution of sheep and wine to citizens by Tamaz Gvelukashvili, a member of Rustavi City Council. The report by CCG states that Gvelukashvili wasn’t involved in the handing out of 20 liters of wine and sheep to locals on several streets in the city of Rustavi in the run-up to Easter holidays. Instead, the CCG names Deputy Chairman of the Rustavi City Council Kakha Baratashvili – who is a member of the United National Movement (UNM) - as the culprit. This has been considered as an administrative violation and illegal donation in favor of the UNM party amounting to GEL 7,920.
Transparency International Georgia considers that the CCG’s conclusion is lacking consistency. Although the CCG has confirmed Baratashvili’s handing out of sheep and wine to the locals, there has been no mention that the act was a violation of article 1641 of the Criminal Code that implies bribery of locals for electoral purposes. As a public official, Kakha Baratashvili is driven by electoral and political goals, thus the case should be considered as vote buying.
This decision is somewhat surprising, given that in the beginning of June several members of the opposition Georgian Dream coalition were arrested and accused of vote buying merely due to their promising to fulfill the population’s wishes.
In this situation, the CCG had instantly reacted and involved the Prosecutor’s Office. In spite of the violation constituting an actual hand-out of presents rather than mere promises, the CCG hasn’t identified Rustavi’s case as a form of vote buying. Moreover, the electoral motives are easier to identify in the case of Baratashvili since he is a public official on a high post, not a simple activist.
Such inconsistency and lack of impartiality by government bodies seriously hampers the electoral process and prevents the formation of a competitive and fair electoral environment.
- The Chamber of Control, so that they forward the aforementioned case to the Prosecutor’s Office and to show more impartiality and consistency in regards to the activities of political parties.
- The Prosecutor’s Office, to take interest in this case and take appropriate actions.