TBILISI, DFWatch – The first interim report of one of several extraordinary election monitoring teams says that this spring has been marked by numerous cases of political intimidation.
The report covers the period between April 1 and May 4 and is written by International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), with the support of NDI and USAID. They observed 10 cases of dismissal from work, 10 cases of threats, 6 cases of intimidation of businessmen and ordinary home owners and 3 cases of obstruction.
All of these cases possibly had political motives and all of them occurred in the regional settlements and towns such as Gori, Kutaisi, Gurjaani, Poti, Lanchkuti, Zugdidi, Khelvachauri, Batumi and Kobuleti.
For example, the three owners of an office which is rented by the opposition movement Georgian Dream have been called on to explain themselves at the Chamber of Control.
According to Nino Basilia (Batumi), Archil Tsenteradze (Kobuleti) and Tariel Tebidze (Khelvachauri), interrogation mainly concerned financial issues, however they were also asked what they thought about Georgian Dream and what reaction they had when noticing the Georgian Dream’s banner at their office.
One of them, Archil Tsenteradze, says he first was not allowed to be accompanied by a lawyer but after his categorical demand the decision was changed. Representatives of Chamber of Control were interested in what links he had with the Georgian Dream movement, why did he rent out the office space, if he knew that Georgian Dream was going to open a branch office and if he repaired the space before renting it out.
The observers have not recorded any similar incidents in Tbilisi. Here, the observers instead tracked the usage of administrative resources for electoral purposes. They found that when the top people within the ruling party paid visits to citizens in a few Tbilisi districts, they asked them to fill in a social insurance questionnaire and in the end wrote down their phone numbers and handed them a National Movement business card.
In Vake district, National Movement coordinators offered people insurance from the age of 18 to 25, even though according to Georgian law this is illegal after the election date has been official announced. ISFED believes this has a negative impact on the formation of an equal and free electoral environment in Georgia.
ISFED, a non-governmental organization established in 1995 aiming at increasing society’s confidence in the results of the elections and focusing on election monitoring, is evaluating the pre-election environment in 73 districts of Georgia.
A similar report covering May will be published in mid June.