State resources at the service of the ruling party: Proven methods of vote buying and illegal mobilization of voters in Georgia
Transparency International Georgia and the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy studied the documents allegedly taken from the correspondence of firstname.lastname@example.org during 2018-2019. This email address was allegedly created by the ruling party - Georgian Dream. The files provided by the whistleblower also included some documents from 2020. Certain data in the documents were verified through public information.
Based on the research, a large-scale scheme of mobilizing voters in favor of the ruling party by illegal means was identified, which is highly likely to prove the use of state agencies (including law enforcement agencies) for election/party purposes. Personal information about employees of budgetary organizations and other citizens was probably collected through these agencies, to put pressure on them in the future. In addition, in exchange for support in the elections, citizens were provided with pre-requested and other types of benefits through various state agencies.
The scale of the scheme allows us to assume that as a result of interfering in the election process with these methods, it was possible to mobilize voters in favor of the ruling party on a large scale.
More specifically, the representatives of the ruling party, using the services of various state agencies, allegedly offered specific persons the cancellation of probation, early release from the penitentiary institution, restoration of suspended/confiscated driving rights, reduction of charges (requalification) in ongoing criminal cases, improvement of the conditions of serving the sentence, postponement of military service for conscripts, etc.
From the official information provided by the National Probation Agency, it is clear that during the 2018 presidential election period (especially in the months before and after the second round), the number of persons whose conditional sentences were revoked and whose driving rights were restored significantly increased. In the reports made by various TV stations, many people confirmed the circumstances mentioned in the documents.
To win the voter's hearts, the above-mentioned advantages or benefits were offered informally and bypassing the procedures of the law. As a result, the fact of large-scale bribery of citizens at the expense of state resources by state officials and the ruling party is revealed. In this process, the signs of alleged systemic crimes of individual officials were highlighted.
As it was seen from the documents, the executors of this system together with the ruling party, were probably the then Deputy Minister of Justice, Giorgi Pataridze, and the head of the General Inspection of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Aleksandre Khojevanishvili.
In addition, the ruling party, with a high probability, collected information about the supporters of the opposition parties from non-public sources, including being interested in what kind of influence could be exerted on them by using various state resources. An example of this is the letters sent in 2018 on behalf of the then Deputy Chairman of the Marneuli City Assembly, Mamuka Naveriani.
As can be seen from the documents drawn up in 2020, the ruling party, together with the State Security Service, compiled political dossiers on the employees of budgetary organizations and relied on this information when conducting personnel policy. More specifically, the documents contained political descriptions and recommendations of public school principals, heads of educational resource centers, and employees of various budgetary organizations.
A typical example of this was the political discrimination of public school principals. From autumn 2020 to August 2021, the Ministry of Education did not reappoint at least 112 public school principals as acting principals after the expiration of their term of office. Out of these 112 persons, 95 principals were evaluated in the documents provided by the whistleblower. The educational resource centers had negatively evaluated only 29 dismissed principals, the ruling party - 80 principals and the State Security Service – 89 principals. From these data, it is clear that the evaluations of the State Security Service and the ruling party were decisive for the dismissal of the principals. Such a practice is illegal and completely unacceptable.
In addition to the characteristics of the school principals, the documents provided by the whistleblower contained the characteristics of the employees of various budgetary organizations, the general situation in the agencies, and political attitudes as of August 2020.
The materials also included the documents - "report cards" with which the regional leaders of Georgian Dream addressed the party leaders (Irakli Kobakhidze, Kakha Kaladze, as well as the regional secretary - Dimitri Samkharadze) requesting the transfer of employees of various law enforcement agencies to the party headquarters for election campaign purposes. According to Georgian legislation, an employee of the law enforcement body is obliged to be politically neutral. He/she should refrain from publicly expressing his/her attitude towards any political party and is prohibited from political and election campaigning activities.