Misuse of Administrative Resources during 2018 Presidential Elections in Georgia (Interim Report)
Monitoring of 2018 Presidential Elections, conducted by TI Georgia from June 1 to October 20, revealed several negative trends in terms of misuse of administrative resources.
Misuse of Enforcement Administrative Resources during Electoral Processes
Several important cases of misuse of enforcement administrative resources have been observed. Recruitment of independent members of DECs and PECs was worth mentioning. Similar to the previous elections, the fairness of this process has been questioned. In some cases, opposition parties have released pre-defined lists of commission members. According to them, the selection process was just a formality and DEC and PEC members have been already selected before the official recruitment process had started. In addition, several phone conversations have been released, which could prove active involvement and influence of the ruling political party on recruitment process of PEC members.
Although opposition political party supporters organized rallies against Salome Zurabishvili - a ruling party supported the presidential candidate, during her election campaign meetings, violent incidents almost were absent. One violent incident has been observed In Kutaisi City Assembly where a couple of ruling party members of the Assembly beat a colleague from the opposition because he insulted Salome Zurabishvili in his Facebook post.
It is worth mentioning that the Prosecutor’s Office apparently tried to discredit the UNM, the former ruling party, by announcing results of an old investigation on alleged murder attempt of Badri Patarkatsishvili by high officials of the previous government. Prior to that, Rustavi 2, an anti-government TV Channel, has made a public series of secret audio recordings. These recordings concerned the alleged terror on business, existence of informal militia-type groups, high-level corruption and illegal actions in uninvestigated viral cases. Apparently, the mentioned announcement of the prosecutors’ office was made in order to take public attention out of the viral recordings. The same might be true in case of the Minister of Internal Affairs when he stated that he knew every detail who and how planned destabilization and provocation in the country while commenting on the mentioned recordings. The Minister Gakharia did not provide any proof of his allegations and there is no information whether the investigation started.
Over two-month-long open verbal attacks by various public institutions against leading election observation organizations were among concerning trends. One of the goals of such attacks could be a desire to discredit these organizations. Thea Tsulukiani, a chairperson of the ICFFE and the Minister of Justice at the same time, is worth mentioning. Her unconstructive actions and statements against the observation organizations urged three leading NGOs to leave the Commission. The Chairman of the Parliament also was worth mentioning as he compared the leaders of these NGOs to fascists.
Some decisions of the GNCC also appeared to be problematic. We believe the GNCC illegally asked some broadcasters to provide certain information about media coverage of their opinion polls. In addition, the GNNC had vague positions on some political ads demonstrating its biased approaches.
Misuse of Legislative Administrative Resources during Electoral Processes
In 2018, no such legislative amendment was made that might be considered as a misuse of administrative resources. However, last year we wrote about a legislative amendment, which set a new rule for forming of election commissions after 2017 local elections. This rule clearly favored the ruling party and ensured its dominance in election commissions. Because this is the first general elections for election commissions formed based on the mentioned rule, it was worth mentioning in this report.
Misuse of Institutional Administrative Resources during Electoral Processes
Several types of institutional administrative resources have been misused during electoral processes. What merits attention in this regard, similar to the previous elections, is the fact that the ruling party - the GD was mobilizing people employed in budgetary organizations on a mass scale to attend Salome Zurabishvili’s election events almost in every region. Employees of budgetary organizations were also asked to provide supporters lists for the same candidate. Some cases of illegal campaigning and use of state communication means for electoral purposes have also been observed. Similar to the previous elections, the CEC and DECs did not consider clear campaigning through personal Facebook accounts of civil servants as electoral agitation. This issue remains problematic.
No change to the central or local budgets that would violate the Election Code regulations has been identified during the reporting period. As for electorally motivated spending, no particularly problematic trend has been observed in this regard either.
After studying the cases of misuse of administrative resources during 2018 presidential elections, Transparency International Georgia has drawn the following recommendations:
- High state officials and heads of public institutions should refrain from attacking and attempting to discredit election observation organizations;
- A discussion should start about reforming the ICFF. The Commission works ineffectively under current mandate and supervision of the Minister of Justice;
- Law enforcement bodies should promptly investigate the assault on the member of Kutaisi City Assembly;
- It is necessary to have a greater regulation of the selection procedures for professional appointments in the election commissions alongside with clear qualification requirements. Procedures for selection of candidates should minimize chances for political party activists to be appointed on these positions;
- The GNCC should act within the legislative framework and refrain from making such decisions, which can question its impartiality;
- The Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs should distance themselves from political processes and not be used for discrediting certain political groups;
- In the short run, the rule how to form one part of election commissions should be linked to the election results, but not like how it is now. One party should have a right to appoint only one member of commission, not couple of them;
- In the long run, the rule for forming election commissions should be comprehensively revised. The main political parties and other stakeholders should be actively involved in this process;
- Heads of budgetary organizations should refrain from unlawful involvement of their subordinate civil servants in pre-election campaigning and respect their labor rights;
- The election commissions should perceive campaigning of civil servants through social networks during working hours as a violation of the law and make appropriate decisions.