TBILISI, DFWatch – Campaigners in the former Soviet republic of Georgia are asking the European Union and the OSCE for help to prevent Mikheil Saakasvhili from rigging the election this fall.
Pro-democracy groups have been campaigning since December last year to reverse a set of changes which some see as a carte blanche for Saakashvili’s ruling apparatus to go after anybody it sees as a challenge in the upcoming parliamentary election.
The groups use the slogan ‘This Affects You Too’, because the rules are so wide, just about anybody could be in danger of violating them.
A proposal was recently worked out for how to change the rules so they are not a threat.
Eka Gigauri, representing the campaign, and the executive director of International Transparency Georgia, said Wednesday that they will hand over their proposal to the government on Friday, and at the same time ask for help from the EU and OSCE.
“We will also appeal to EU and OSCE to put this issue on the schedule and make an influence on the Georgian government so that they could provide inviting international monitors,” Gigauri said.
Earlier, two international organizations trying to build democratic institutions reconsidered their activities here, because they might be perceived as meddling in Georgia’s internal politics under the new rules.
In addition to setting limits for the financing of political parties, the rules also extend the limitations to any group or person indirectly connected to a political party or politician. In theory, anybody could be in violation of the rules, the groups argue.
They want to change a section in the Criminal Code which treats gifts in connection with election campaigns as bribery. The campaigners want there to only by criminal liability for parties or groups for bribe, not for an individual voter who for instance receives a gift from a campaigning politician.
Also, the category of persons who may be subject to the restrictions should be narrowed in, they argue. These restrictions should only apply for persons who have declared electoral goals, not just general political goals, and are spending money towards these ends.
There should be some clearly defined limit to the activities of the Georgian Chamber of Control , they further argue, so that it is not given a free hand to arbitrarily persecute groups. The Chamber has the power to determine a violator’s guilt without evidence and issue penalty without going through a court.