TBILISI, DFWatch – A new strongly pro-government organization says the main opposition bloc in Georgia may be disqualified in the upcoming parliament elections, because of what it says is bribery of voters.
The organization, called Clean Politics, which was set up two months after Bidzina Ivanishvili went into politics in October 2011, claims that giving material promises is a violation of the law about Political Union of Citizens, which was amended by parliament at the end of December.
New restrictions were placed on party financing and political activism during an election year. In its first version the law even meant punishing voters with three years in jail for accepting a bribe from a political party. There has not been such restrictions before, and the sudden enforcement of them is seen as a measure to prevent Ivanishvili from gaining leverage over politics by using his wealth, which is greater than the country’s GDP.
After Mr Ivanishvili threw himself into Georgian politics, he has been faced with various kinds of misfortune at the hands of authorities. His citizenship was revoked, which at the time meant that he was robbed of his political rights. After a period with criticism from local and international organizations, parliament adopted a constitutional amendment which will allow Ivanishvili to participate in the elections as a non-citizen.
Clean Politics criticizes Georgian Dream for a few days ago having distributed leaflets with the logo of the movement and an empty space where people can write down their personal dream. People write their dreams on the leaflets, which are collected and taken away to Georgian Dream’s office.
The campaign is symbolic and doesn’t mean literally that each dream should come true, a spokesperson for Georgian Dream says. But it means that if the coalition comes to power after the elections, they promise to solve material problems and improve people’s standard of living.
But Clean Politics point out that people are writing down their material dreams, like having a television, a washing machine, a car. This can be considered as bribery, they argue, if those things are distributed to people before the elections.
“It is impossible that someone writes his or her own dream and then they [Georgian Dream] make those dreams come true. Here it is about Ivanishvili deciding to spend his finances on this. This is nothing more than bribery of voters. If it is confirmed that this took place to a large extent, the party will be prohibited from participating in elections, because this will be voters’ bribery,” Nino Lapiashvili, representing the organization stated on Wednesday at Prime Time News office.
The same day, Rustavi 2, also pro-government TV, dedicated a news report to these leaflets. The news presenter started by saying that Georgian Dream promises to make people’s material dreams come true before the elections.
Rustavi 2 interviewed representatives of Georgian Dream in Kutaisi, the second largest city after the capital. They are distributing leaflets to people in the city. One of them says that of course it is impossible to make each dream come true, like if someone would like to own a Lamborghini, but it is possible to let smaller dreams come true.
“If someone doesn’t have money and needs a washing machine, we can help,” one activist says adding that it may become possible before the elections.
One citizen wrote in his leaflet that his dream is for Misha (Mikheil Saakashvili) to win, because if ‘Bidzina won’t then Misha will make his dreams come true.”
Maia Panjikidze, spokesperson for Georgian Dream, responded by saying that this is another one of the government’s smear campaigns against the coalition, and that several people are involved.
“Those people repeat one and the same prepared phrases, as if the coalition promises to buy equipment for voters, valued less than 1000 lari, in order to create reason for repression.”
She underlined that the point with asking people for their dreams was to make them come true after the election, note before it.
“We promise people to make their dreams come true, but not before the elections distributing them like presents, but after victory in elections through establishing fairness in the country, overcoming poverty, solving social problems, employment and growth in the economy.”
Yesterday, the Chamber of Control (CoC) said it sees signs of bribery in the leaflets.
“It involves a promise for electoral purposes, direct or indirect, of money, securities, (including financial instruments), other property, property rights, services or other priorities. The Financial Monitoring Service appeals to the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia to take note of this and take the necessary measures to study it and react to it as appropriate,” says a statement from the CoC.
Representatives of Clear Policy say this doesn’t have anything in common with democracy and is against Georgian legislation.
Clear Policy was set up in December with the goal of supporting transparency in how money is spent in Georgian politics. It was established by Zurab Japaridze
Georgian billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s political coalition Georgian Dream officially started election campaign with the demonstration held in streets of Tbilisi on May 27. In his speech the businessman promised to increase pensions and provide people with a normal standard of living.
The youth who appeared in the report on Rustavi 2 have never been members of Georgian Dream, says Maia Panjikidze. She says they are associated with the movement and ideologically supporting it.
“There are too many such kind of youth, and I don’t exclude they may have come with different goals.”
Yesterday evening Georgian Dream released statement that those three were excluded from Georgian Dream for what they did. Police later arrested all three Grigol Ambroladze,Mikheil Meskhi and Mikheil Amashukeli. Prosecutor’s Office released statement which says that testimony of these people, also material reported in media are enough grounds for them to be responsible for voters’ bribery.