Misuse of Administrative Resources during Georgia’s 2018 Presidential Elections
Monitoring of misuse of administrative resources from August 1 to December 16 revealed the following findings:
Compared to the pre-election period leading up to the first round of the presidential elections, the scale of the misuse of administrative resources for electoral purposes have increased considerably in the run up to the second round, which could significantly affect the election results.
Misuse of enforcement administrative resources during electoral processes
Violent incidents as well as alleged dismissals and threats of dismissal from work for political reasons have been recorded. In one of the cases, the threat to dismiss led to passing away of one person. After the second round of elections, one of the media organizations publicized a video footage where one could see how members of some precinct election commissions falsified elections. Moreover, we received information from one reliable source on alleged falsification of identification documents and elections.
In terms of violence, the most problematic was a case of October 30, when four activists of the UNM) were attacked and heavily beaten in the UNM office in Akhalkalaki. According to the MIA, five supporters of the GD - political party were charged of violent actions. This information shows that the existence of a political motive of the incident was ignored. We believed, persecution only because of violent action was not enough and political motive as an aggravating circumstance should have been considered as well.
The instances of alleged politically motivated intimidation have also become more frequent after the first round. Those accused of exerting such pressure were mainly the people who had some links with institutions that receive their funding from the state budget.
Almost during entire election campaign, open verbal attacks by various public institutions against leading election observation organizations have been observed. One of the goals of such attacks could be a desire to discredit these organizations.
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 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.
During that time, the Berlin secretariat of Transparency International published a statement and expressed its concern over signs of state capture in Georgia, which was reflected in illegitimate influence of some informal groups on public institutions.
Similar to the previous elections, in the beginning of the pre-election period, fairness of recruitment of independent members of DECs and PECs has been questioned. In some cases, opposition parties have released pre-defined lists of commission members. According to them, 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. In some cases, opposition parties have released pre-defined lists of commission members. According to them, 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.
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.
During the entire pre-election period, the response by the SAO to alleged violations of political party financing regulations was mostly ineffective. The process of verifying the cases was protracted and it could produce no results. Only on November 26, the SAO published a small report, according to which, study of only couple of cases was completed. Such an ineffectiveness raised certain questions towards the SAO’s partiality.
Misuse of legislative administrative resources during electoral processes
Two cases worth mentioning in terms of misuse of legislative administrative resources. First was about announcement of runoff Election Day. Despite the fact that the law allows holding elections on a weekday and, in such a case, it is declared a day off, this decision was unacceptable and inexpedient.
Second was a new rule for forming of election commissions, which was adopted in 2017 and ensured dominance of one party in all election commissions. This was the first general elections for election commissions formed based on the mentioned rule.
Misuse of institutional administrative resources during electoral processes
Prior to the both rounds of elections, the GD was mobilizing people employed in budgetary organizations on mass scale to attend Salome Zurabishvili’s election events almost in every region. Employees of budgetary organizations were also asked to provide supporters list 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 remained problematic.
Misuse of financial administrative resources during electoral processes
No change was identified in the central or local budget during the reporting period that would violate the regulations of the Election Code.
As for the electorally motivated public spending, the period after the first round of the presidential elections stood out in this respect. After the first round, we could hear almost daily the promises made by the leaders of the GD about the new multi-million social projects. Given its essence, intensity and target audience, this trend shows clear signs of electorally motivated public spending, which could have the same harm as use of financial administrative resources for electoral purposes. The state must elaborate a social policy that establishes a stable social security system without simply relying on raising social benefits during pre-election periods. In order to ensure a healthy and competitive election environment, such programs should not be initiated in the period leading up to elections, since this gives a major unfair advantage to the ruling party candidate.
Notable electorally motivated public spending and programs include legalizing the ownership of flats throughout the country for about 900 families of IIDPs, raising the amount of social assistance or salaries for various groups, issuing one-time social assistance and other. Moreover, after the first round of elections the Cartu Foundation owned by Bidzina Ivanishvili, the chair of the GD party, promised to pay back the debts of 600,000 citizens. We considered this case alleged vote buying and misuse of administrative resources since the Government of Georgia was actively involved in its implementation process.