NGOs urge the CEC to react duly to the breach of election legislation by Diocesan Bishop Iakob - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო
GEO

NGOs urge the CEC to react duly to the breach of election legislation by Diocesan Bishop Iakob

14 July, 2014

According to media reports, during the Sunday service the Diocesan Bishop of the Catholicos-Patriarch of All-Georgia Iakob (Konstantine Iakobishvili) has made political appeals containing signs of unlawful campaigning.

During the Sunday service the Diocesan Bishop has called on the parish to actively participate in the self-government elections and not to allow the concrete political entity to win: “We should all go to elections and make our choice, so that people who do not repent what they had done to the country, how they had disgraced the nation, and who plan a comeback, something should be rejected.” Further, the Diocesan Bishop Iakob criticized the policies of former authorities “that would like to come back to power today, and what are they promising in case of their return?!” and made certain hints as to which political force should voters support: “I’m not saying that whoever is in power, everything is acceptable. People at these elections demonstrated they are regretful, but we all can see the difference.”

This statement is an example of pre-election campaigning – calling on the voters in favor of or against an election subject / nominee to an election subject, as well as any public action that facilitates or prevents its election [etc.]

Everyone enjoys freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution and the right to publicly support the preferred candidate, by taking into account requirements of the law (Election Code of Georgia, Article 2, Sub-Paragraph z8). Yet, Sub-Paragraph ‘g’ of Paragraph 4 of Article 45 of the Election Code of Georgia directly prohibits religious organizations from carrying out pre-election campaigning.

Which concrete subjects can be viewed as representing religious organization for the purposes of limitations set by the Election Code is a subject of interpretation. Nevertheless, in this case, for the purposes of election legislation the Diocesan Bishop should be acknowledged as a representative of the Orthodox Church. Such a link of the senior cleric of his status with the church is attested by the Constitutional Agreement between the Georgian state and the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church, pursuant to which: “the following represent the Church without special authority: the Ecclesiastical Assembly, the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, the Holy Synod and the Patriarchate of Georgia (in the face of the Diocesan Bishop and the Secretary)”, [1] which means that public expressions made by the Diocesan Bishop within the scope of his status and authority should be perceived as the position of the religious organization.

Public appearances of leaders of religious organizations in any form, including the Sunday service, include the component of communication with the voters and constitute public actions, especially when widely covered by media outlets. Accordingly, public actions of the Diocesan Bishop, who represents the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church, should be perceived as political campaigning carried out by the religious organization, which is prohibited by the Election Code.

The forbidding norm of the Election Code, which strictly prohibits election campaigning with respect to a certain circle of subjects (Election Code, Article 45, Paragraph 4, Sub-Paragraph ‘g’), aims to protect electoral process from the influence of clerics, the probability of which is huge in light of high trust and authority of religious organizations. Independence of electoral process is a crucial pre-condition for the development of a democratic and secular state.

The signatory non-governmental organizations of the present statement urge: 

  • The Central Election Commission of Georgia – to probe into participation by the Diocesan Bishop Iakob in pre-election campaigning through breach of election legislation and to react in a due legal manner.
  • Representatives of religious organizations – to refrain from any public actions containing signs of pre-election campaigning.

 

Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center EMC)

Transparency International Georgia (TI)

Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA)

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)


[1] The Resolution of the Parliament of Georgia on the Approval of the Constitutional Agreement “between the Georgian State and the Georgian Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church”, Article 1.4.

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