A number of significant supplements and amendments have been entered into the Georgian election legislation late last year, including an intriguing issue regarding the handing on of gifts for political purposes. Prior to the amendments, the ban on similar activities covered only the pre-election period, i.e. a time span of about two months.
Due to this, the pitfall in the legislation had often been quite adroitly made use of by political unions already before the actual pre-election period who tried to pre-engage voters by handing them different presents and offering free services. The present legislation rules out such facts. However, only time will show whether the law will be interpreted consistently and in good faith.
Under Georgian organic law on “Political Unions of Citizens”, article 5, paragraph 1, parties are prohibited to hand on gifts through any person. Furthermore, a new article (1641) has been added to the Criminal Code stating that acts like direct or indirect promise, transfer or provision of money, securities, other property, property rights, services or other privileges are punishable by up to three years imprisonment or fines. There are some exceptions when such activities are not considered as bribes. It is allowed, for example, to distribute presents of small value not exceeding a total of 5,000 Gel per year during public or religious holidays.
Numerous facts of political actors (or persons associated with a political party) handing on New Year (Christmas) presents to different groups of public have been revealed in late December and early January. The Law, in its turn, requires that the Georgian Chamber of Control investigate each individual case and respond to them accordingly within the law. A part of the facts listed below pertains to the period before 12 January, 2012 (the day when the above amendments to the Criminal Code entered into force). According to the organic Law on “The Political Unions of Citizens”, the overall value of presents handed on by one political actor should not exceed the amount of 5,000 Gel. Our information includes actions covering the period both before and after 12 January. Subsequently, we may have cases of criminal offense and violation of the Georgian Law on the “Political Unions of Citizens”.
We believe that representatives of some political unions have at various times violated the Law and the Chamber of Control should react accordingly. We have addressed the Chamber of Control regarding all available facts of violations (7 February, 2012 – United National Movement; 13 February – Christian Democratic Movement; 16 February – Free Democrats), albeit no response has followed regarding any of these facts.
Our information from late December 2011 and January 2012 includes the following facts:
- The website of Gocha Enukidze, a majority deputy of Ambrolauri Municipality, contains information from 30 December, 2011 that he handed presents to big family mothers, elderly people and those over 100, as well as careless and indigent beneficiaries. (source)
- The information from 30 December, 2011 displayed on the website of Georgian MP Guram Kakalashvili confirms that the latter together with Giorgi Gozalishvili, the Chairman of the Lagodekhi municipality Assembly and Dimitri Loladze, the municipality Governor, handed New Year presents to the socially vulnerable individuals of the municipality. (source)
- According to the Tbilisi City Assembly website information from 31 December, 2011, Mamuka Akhvlediani, majority deputy from Mtsatsminda district, and Iva Chkonia, the Vice-Governor of Old Tbilisi district handed the free dinner room beneficiaries foodstuff of 9 descriptions. New Year presents had been distributed throughout an entire week. (source)
- The website of the Batumi City Hall informed on 1 January, 2012 that children received presents and sweets personally from the Chairman of the Government of Adjara Autonomous Republic Levan Varshalomidze and Batumi Mayor Robert Chkhaidze. Chief executives of regions and the city of Batumi delivered presents to socially vulnerable families as well. (source)
- According to the information on Our Georgia Free Democrats facebook from 1 January, 2012, Irakli Alasania the leader of Our Georgia Free Democrats, wished the family of Pridon Natskebia, a resident of Akhalsopeli village of Zugdidi municipality, a Happy New Year and handed him presents. (source) (source)
- On 2 January, 2012 The State Representative/ Governor of Imereti region Lasha Makatsaria and Kutaisi Mayor Giorgi Tevdoradze handed presents to the families of those falling in the 2008 August war in Kutaisi. (source)
- According to the website of Tbilisi City Assembly from 3 January, 2012, Zaal Samadashvili, an Avlabari majority deputy, congratulated socially vulnerable children from Isani district with the New Year and invited about 100 youngsters to Rustaveli Theatre. (source)
- Gldani-Nadzaladevi administrative body facebook informs about the local administrative body and majority deputies congratulating 2500 teenagers with the New Year and handing them presents on 5 January, 2012. (source)
- As disseminated through the “Guria News” information portal on 5 January 2012, Aleko Mameshvili, the Chairman of Ozurgeti City Assembly, Ilia Vashakmadze, the acting Governor of the same municipality, Gocha Shanidze, member of the Georgian parliament, and Natia Vashalomidze, the head of the Ozurgeti local administrative body department for labour, public health and social protection of refugees and IDPs, brought Christmas presents to indigent families: Marine Pirtsidze, Nana Berulava, and Mzevinar Lursmanashvili. After that they handed presents to the war veteran Zhuzhuna Babilodze as well. Furthermore, they gave New Year presents to the free dining room careless beneficiaries. (source)
- According to the website of the Parliament Deputy Chairman and Samgori district Majoritarian MP Rusudan Kervalishvili from 7 January 2012, Rusudan Kervalishvili, the First Lady Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs and the Corrections and Legal Assistance Minister Khatuna Kalmakhelidze visited 5 establishments in the Penitentiary Department. The guests handed sweets and New Year presents to all women inmates. (source)
- According to the information from Christian-Democratic Movement facebook from 11 January, 2012, on that very day, Giorgi Targamadze, Giorgi Akhvlediani, and Magda Anikashvili, the leaders of Christian Democrats handed presents to the orphanage for handicapped children. Additionally, Giorgi Targamadze and Djaba Samushia, Christian-Democrat leaders delivered New Year presents to the socially vulnerable family of the Benianidzes on 7 January, 2012. Also, Giorgi Targamadze, Zaza Gabunia and Djaba Samushia congratulated socially vulnerable and IDP children with Christmas and New Year and hosted them at the Amirani cinema. According to Zaza Gabunia, the above action was financed by a Georgian citizen living in Cyprus. (source)
- According to the Tbilisi City Assembly the information from 13 January, 2012, Mamuka Akhvlediani, the Assembly first Deputy Chairman, wished large families from Mtatsminda district a happy Old New Year and delivered tickets for circus with the New year presents to the children. (source)
- “Pirveli” information web portal disseminated information on 15 January, 2012, according to which Christian Democrats had held an art exhibition with paintings of socially unprotected children during which Giorgi Targamadze and Djaba Samushia gave kids New Year presents. (source)
- According to the Tbilisi City Assembly website, Tbilisi City Hall and Assembly have initiated a proposal to dedicate one day of circus performance entirely to fully disabled children as well as kids from socially vulnerable and large families. Alongside the children, the New Year performance was attended by Mamuka Akhvlediani, the Tbilisi City Assembly first Vice Chairman, and Mamuka Katsarava, the Head of the Tbilisi City Hall Social Care and Culture department. (source)
- Christian Democratic Movement facebook contains information from 19 January, 2012 that Giorgi Targamadze and Giorgi Akhvlediani, Christian Democrat leaders, as well as Davit Lortkipanidze, Vani Municipal Assembly member, had a meeting with the residents of Dikhashkho and Isriti villages of Vani district. They wished the locals happy Epiphany, attended the church service, and handed the Isriti St. George’s church two bells for the bell tower as a present. (source)
- Tbilisi City Assembly website contains information from 22 January 2012 that Mamuka Akhvlediani, the City Assembly First Vice-Chairman, and Gogita Nikoladze, Didgori district Governor, paid a visit to Kodjori orphanage and handed children New year presents. (source)
- According to the website of Young Christian Democrats from 22 January, 2012, the Senaki district youth organization of the Christian Democratic Movement held a charity action and delivered New Year presents to residents Lasha Danelia and Inder Dadesheli. (source)