TBILISI, DFWatch – The seizing of the bank accounts of an opposition figure and his partner, a former AC Milan player, has strengthened the perception of a selective and disproportionate application of the law, according to a new report by National Democratic Institute.
The interim report of NDI’s long-term observation mission notes that the accounts of Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgian Dream coalition leader, and Kakhi Kalandze, number one on Georgian Dream’s party list, were seized because they had withdrawn cash from their own accounts and illegally donating it to the party. However, the government couldn’t present proper documents to prove this accusation.
The new report also reads that polarization increases between the ruling party and Georgian Dream as a result of rhetoric. The report explains that under this rhetoric, Georgian government presents its opponent as a threat to the country’s sovereignty, while Georgian Dream presents the government as a threat to the country’s democracy. This increases the level of distrust towards the election environment, the report explains.
In this context, the NDI considers that the government is obliged to adopt fair election laws and enforce these laws in an unbiased way, while the opposition should obey the laws. But the report’s conclusion says that from time to time both sides try to avoid these obligations in order to gain political priority.
The long-term observation mission considers that in many cases, the government’s misconduct transform into unproved accusations, and as result it is difficult to discern whether these examples are from the current election process or grounded in past experience.
The report writes that both should set aside hostility and prevent violence, while the government is obliged to provide equal enforcement of the law and to punish law offenders; when parties speak about accusations, they should present appropriate documentation to prove those accusations.
As NDI sees it, there is no precise definition of where the line is drawn between the government and the ruling party, which creates a problem when the ruling party uses administrative resources for its own benefits.
Bodies which are obliged to control this are inter-agency commission and Central Election Commission, but they don’t have opportunities like State Audit Service does. This is the body which was given authority to monitor and track financial transfers of political parties, legal and individual persons, in order to avoid illegal financing and other law violations in the election campaign.
When Georgian Dream violates financing rules during the election campaign and National Movement uses administrative resources, it makes sense to say that the law is selectively enforced and fines are disproportionate, the report says.
The report reminds about collection/incaso over bank accounts of Georgian Dream coalition parties and considers it was unclear what formula did the National Enforcement Bureau used while cutting money from accounts of these parties.
As soon as Council of Europe and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly responded to this case, inter-agency commission recommended to the National Enforcement Bureau to postpone the enforcement of this fine, which was done.
The report says this case proves that the government faces anumber of challenges while using and enforcing laws. It is even more complicated when Georgian Dream coalition leaders refuse to pay ‘illegal’ fines.
But the conclusion says nothing about the media environment in the country before the election, while the media is considered one of the most important factors to conducting a free and fair election.
There are three analysts in NDI’s mission. The report applies to the period from August 3 to 27. Members of the mission visited 24 districts and held more than 120 meetings with government, election administration, political parties, civil society and media.