GEO

Second Interim Report on Monitoring Campaign Finances and Administrative Resources

27 November, 2018

 

 

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. The donations received by Salome Zurabishvili, who enjoys the support of the ruling party, are still five times the size of the donations received by the United National Movement candidate, Grigol Vashadze. The increase in the number of instances of alleged vote buying has become particularly striking.

Misuse of Administrative Resources during Electoral Processes

Misuse of enforcement administrative resources during electoral processes

  • During the period covered by the report, violent incidents as well as alleged dismissals and threats of dismissal from work for political reasons have been recorded;
  • After the first round, election-related violent incidents became more frequent. The response by the Ministry of Internal Affairs to these instances was meaningful. In order to share the information about the steps taken by the Ministry, this agency held several meetings with local as well as international observer organizations. In addition, a special format was created under the Georgian Government Administration for similar purposes. The introduction of such practice is a welcome development;
  • According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, starting on 28 October, it instituted criminal proceedings regarding 22 cases that could be related to the elections. Among these cases were the 14 incidents allegedly involving violence. Six persons were indicted in two cases. According to the Ministry, the vast majority of cases related to alleged pressure or threats did not hold true;
  • The attack on the United National Movement office in Akhalkalaki on 30 October was especially problematic in terms of violence. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, five supporters of the Georgian Dream political party – Martun Mkoian, Eduard Mkoian, Karapet Mkoian, Ararat Ambarian and Andranik Karslian – were charged with violent actions on 3 November. This information shows that the existence of a political motive of the incident was ignored which, in our opinion, is incorrect;
  • The instances of alleged politically motivated intimidation have also become more frequent after the first round. Those accused of exerting such pressure are mainly the people who have some links with institutions that receive their funding from the state budget.

Misuse of legislative administrative resources during electoral processes

  • There was one problematic case identified in this regard after the first round. The Central Election Commission did not consider the many calls made by observer organizations and political parties and scheduled the second round of the elections on a weekday, on 28 November. 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 is unacceptable and inexpedient.

Misuse of institutional administrative resources during electoral processes

  • The trend of forcing the employees of the budget-funded organizations to create lists of Salome Zurabishvili’s supporters and become involved in campaigning which prevailed in the run up to the first round, continued during the period leading up to the second round as well.

Misuse of financial administrative resources for electoral purposes

  • During the period covered by the report, no changes to the central or local budgets – which would have been a violation of the Election Code – were recorded;
  • 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 Georgian Dream 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;
  • Notable electorally motivated public spending and programmes include: legalizing the ownership of flats throughout the country for about 900 families of internally displaced persons (for example, 455 flats in Gori, 149 flats in Tbilisi, 54 flats in Marneuli), raising the amount of social assistance or salaries for various groups, issuing one-time social assistance and other.

Campaign Finances

  • From 1 August until 19 November, the donations received by the electoral entities have been distributed as follows: the two main entities received the total of GEL 11,343,062 in donations, including GEL 8,998,948 (79.3 percent) received by Salome Zurabishvili and GEL 1,243,366 (11.6 percent) received by Grigol Vashadze;
  • As for the period following the first round, from 28 October until 19 November, the two main electoral entities received the total of GEL 4,128,323 in donations, including GEL 3,592,724 (87 percent) received by Salome Zurabishvili and GEL 535,599 (13 percent) received by Grigol Vashadze;
  • Of the 621 persons who made donations to Salome Zurabishvili, 157 previously made donations to other political parties as well. Among them, 137 natural persons made donations to Georgian Dream in the past. They donated the total of GEL 1,750,00 to Salome Zurabishvili, which amounts to 22 percent of the total donations. Previously, the same people donated about GEL 5,801,088 to Georgian Dream. In addition, 15 of Zurabishvili’s donors made donations amounting to the total of GEL 795,00 to the United National Movement in 2012;
  • After the first round of the presidential elections, several informal social movements have appeared and held various public political events. Among them are “I Defend Freedom”, “No to Misha, No to Nazis” [“Nazis” here refer to the members of the United National Movement – translator’s note], “No to Nazism” and others. The actions of these group clearly include campaigning in favour of one presidential candidate and against the other, and this is likely to involve some expenses;
  • In addition to expressing verbal support to Salome Zurabishvili, Georgian Dream posted sponsored campaign ads of Salome Zurabishvili on the party’s official Facebook page, which should be considered an illegal donation made by Georgian Dream to this candidate;
  • Another party – the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia – also spent financial resources to benefit Salome Zurabishvili and against Grigol Vashadze. In early November, this party started printing and distributing campaign materials with the main goal of discrediting Grigol Vashadze’s candidacy and supporting Salome Zurabishvili. Furthermore, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia organized large-scale campaign rallies in Batumi and Tbilisi with the same purpose. A stage, microphones, campaign posters and other means were used during these meetings. The party also provided for participants’ transportation. Therefore, the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia spent financial and material resources for the benefit of Salome Zurabishvili, which must be considered an illegal donation;
  • Similar to the first round, the response by the State Audit Office to alleged violations of political party financing regulations was mostly ineffective. The process of verifying the cases was protracted and produced no results at the end. As late as on 26 November, the Audit Office published a brief report which included information about the response to several violations. We hope that the process of investigating the cases will be speeded up and decisions will be made more promptly.

 

Vote buying

  • After the first round of the presidential elections, the increase in the number of cases of alleged vote buying has become particularly striking. Transparency International Georgia has been regularly receiving this kind of information from its long-term observers in various regions. Particularly alarming was the joint initiative of the government and the Cartu Foundation to pay back the debts of 600,000 citizens. This initiative differs from other cases as the source of the financing is a private foundation, which points at vote buying.

 

Recommendations

  • The Ministry of Internal Affairs must pay more attention to identifying a political angle when investigating violent incidents;
  • The Central Election Commission, when the law permits, must make its decisions based on the interests of voters;
  • The heads of budgetary organizations must refrain from unlawfully involving civil servants working under them into campaigning and respect their labour rights. Also, they must not obstruct the work of municipal agencies by involving the staff into campaigning;
  • The government must refrain from initiating large-scale social programmes shortly before elections in order to avoid damaging healthy competition between the electoral entities;
  • The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office must investigate as rapidly as possible the cases of alleged vote buying;
  • The State Audit Office must, as soon as possible, complete the investigation of other instances of allegedly illegal donations and political party financing.

The final report will be published after the elections.

This report was made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The opinions expressed in the report belong to Transparency International Georgia and may not reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

 

elections