Transparency International Georgia Is Leaving the Interagency Commission in Protest
During the pre-electoral period, non-governmental organizations have become a target of unprecedented attacks from the government. High-level officials from the Georgian Dream – the Chairperson of the Parliament, Members of the Parliament, Mayor of Tbilisi, Minister of Justice and others – have tried to discredit the civil society organizations by making unsubstantiated and inappropriate accusations against them. Due to these circumstances, Transparency International Georgia no longer sees a potential for maintaining a constructive dialogue with the Government on issues related to the presidential elections, and as a sign of protest is leaving the Interagency Commission for Free and Fair Elections – the last remaining venue for cooperation on electoral matters.
The leaders of the Georgian Dream have referred to NGOs as politically-motivated and fascist organizations. It is very alarming that these statements were followed by the creation of a series of sponsored pages on social networks, which spread misleading and factually incorrect information about the leaders of specific non-governmental organizations. This issue is further aggravated by the fact that media outlets loyal to the government did not run this story in an objective manner, instead choosing to portray the civil society sector in a bad light.
These attacks began following the watchdog organizations’ publication of the preliminary assessment of the electoral environment. The targets of attack were the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy. Inappropriate comments were made by the Chairpersons of the Central Election Commission, Georgian National Communication Commission and the interagency commission. In response to inappropriate comments made by the Chairperson of the interagency commission (the Minister of Justice), two opposition parties and the aforementioned two organizations left the commission in protest. Transparency International Georgia remained in the commission to attempt to maintain a constructive cooperation for the purpose of securing a healthy electoral environment.
Nevertheless, due to the recent developments and the aggressive rhetoric of the leaders of the Georgian Dream, including the Minister of Justice, Transparency International Georgia no longer sees any potential for constructive dialogue within the format of the interagency commission. Unfortunately, the agencies and high-level officials who should be responding to any case of misuse of administrative resources are themselves using these resources to discredit influential observer organizations.
Due to the aforementioned circumstances, Transparency International Georgia is leaving the interagency commission. The ruling party and the Chairperson of the interagency commission have unfortunately failed to provide a professional and neutral work environment. We consider that the ruling party and the Chairperson of the interagency commission are solely responsible for these circumstances. To avoid any damage to the electoral environment, we call upon the ruling party and the interagency commission to take appropriate measures and cease any further systematic attempts at discrediting the non-governmental organizations.