Municipality head orders civil servants to campaign
The acting head of the Ozurgeti municipality (Guria region), Ilia Vashakmadze, has ordered his staff to sign up friends and relatives as supporters of the ruling United National Movement party, TV9 reported on May 24th (full version of audio recording).
According to what appears to be a secret audio recording of the meeting, broadcast by TV9, Vashakmadze addresses his staff: "Go to the most trustworthy people, first of all to family members, to the most trustworthy friend, relative, god-son, whoever, it is not necessary [to go to] 20 or 50 people, write down maximum 10 people, minimum – how many you will manage." Vashakmadze also warns employees that the meeting is highly confidential and the official reason of the meeting, is "a discussion related to ongoing city projects".
According to the OSCE Copenhagen document (1990), Georgia has an obligation to ensure a clear separation between the state and political parties – in particular to ensure that political parties do not merge with the state.
We believe that such this incident may constitute a possible violation of Article 61 of law of Georgia On Public Service, according to which a "civil servant cannot use his/hers official position for the purposes of political party." Consequently, in case the fact is proved, disciplinary measures prescribed under Article 79 of the same law should be applied to the violator.
The action of the Ozurgeti municipality head may also be investigated as a criminal offence. In particular, it may constitute the abuse of his position as a public official which is punishable under Article 332 of the Criminal Code of Georgia.This means using an official position for his (or other person's) benefit. In this case, acting governor of Ozurgeti asks his employees to gain supporters for his the rulling party, and is doing this as a governor, against the will of the employees and in violation of the law On Public Service.
In addition, the first part of Article 49 the Georgian Election Code prohibits the use of an official office for electoral purposes. Unfortunately, this norm, along with other similar norms of the Election Code, is applicable only after the exact date has been determined. However, as political parties have already launched their election campaigns, such examples should be considered as use of administrative resources for election purposes. Incidents such as this one seriously damage the existence of equal and competitive electoral environment.
Considering all of the above mentioned, we ask
- The Government of Georgia and the Inter-institutional Commission of Georgian National Security Council to investigate the reported incident and take appropriate measures;
- The prosecutor's office to launch an investigation about a possible violation of Article 332 of the Criminal Code of Georgia;
- The Government to prevent a repetition of such instances in the future, and to take measures against abuse of administrative resources by using loopholes in the Election Code.
It is crucial that authorities ensure an equal and competitive electoral environment in order to protect the interests of political parties, society and the country itself.