TBILISI, DFWatch–Election results at two Georgian precincts were canceled Tuesday, as a result of a controversial video published by the National Movement party, which lost the local election in that area.
The video is made by the organization Free Zone, which is linked to the National Movement, and purports to show ballot-stuffing at a precinct in Marneuli, a town 30 km south of Tbilisi.
Ballot-stuffing is a form a fraud and involves someone dropping many ballot-papers into the election urne in order to boost the number of votes for some candidate or party. It was repeatedly noted in reports by election observers during the decade that the National Movement held power in Georgia, though became more rare towards the end of its rule.
The district commission in Marneuli, a mostly ethnic Azeri region of Georgia, canceled the results of the 25th and 57th precincts, the latter of which was where the videos apparently was filmed.
It was published June 16 by the National Movement (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bj0c6eB1HeE#t=63) and shows two people dropping many ballot-papers into the election urne at one of the precincts in Marneuli.
Government officials claim that the person who is seen stuffing voting-papers is a relative of a member of the National Movement. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched an investigation on suspicion of election fraud.
UNM officials on Monday accused the government of election fraud during a press conference. They claim the video was filmed at precinct number 57 in Marneuli.
MP Goga Khachidze said that election observer Ana Gurgenidze from Free Zone went out of the room to have something to eat, but left her camera running, and that’s how the incident was recorded.
Former Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava said that their representatives observed the same violations at precinct number 25 in Marneuli and they identified the person who dropped ballot-papers into the urne as Nazim Aliyev.
Energy Minister and Vice Prime Minister Kakhi Kaladze, who also is in charge of Georgian Dream’s election office, issued a statement the same day saying that the person seen in the video is a relative and friend of UNM members.
“In our opinion, we are dealing with a well-planned provocation which aims to discredit the election process,” the statement reads, adding that UNM is attempting to inspire tension on ethnic grounds.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs wrote in a statement that they are working to identify the people who committed this crime.
“We want to underline that every person participating in this incident will be strictly punished regardless of political affiliation.”
Tina Khidasheli, MP from the Georgian Dream coalition, said in an interview with Palitra TV that she was informed that the person who is seen in the footage left Georgia before the video was published, which in her opinion indicates that it was the National Movement who was behind it.
Like the government, she thinks that the video was staged and the UNM kept the video on hold until the person who is seen ballot-stuffing had time to leave the country. But she also said that she doesn’t exclude that there in fact was real fraud in Marneuli.
Georgian Dream and UNM exchange accusations that Nazim Aliyev is an activist for the opponent.
Giorgi Gegechkori, spokesperson for Georgian Dream’s election headquarters, said on Tuesday that in the footage they recognized Nazim Aliyev, who is brother of Marneuli council member for UNM Japrail Iusupov.
“This confirms our suspicion that the incident was a provocation staged by UNM and has no connection to Georgian Dream.”
However, UNM members, who also recognized this person, claim that Aliyev is close to Jabrail Usupov, but he is not a council member for UNM.
According to the official Marneuli Sakrebulo website, he is a member of the Georgian Dream faction. http://marneuli.ge/index.php/%E1%83%A1%E1%83%90%E1%83%99%E1%83%A0%E1%83%94%E1%83%91%E1%83%A3%E1%83%9A%E1%83%9D/%E1%83%A1%E1%83%90%E1%83%99%E1%83%A0%E1%83%94%E1%83%91%E1%83%A3%E1%83%9A%E1%83%9D%E1%83%A1-%E1%83%A4%E1%83%A0%E1%83%90%E1%83%A5%E1%83%AA%E1%83%98%E1%83%94%E1%83%91%E1%83%98
In an interview with Rustavi 2, Iusupov said that he left UNM and switched to Georgian Dream after the 2012 parliamentary election.
“Nazim Aliev is the brother of my wife and I haven’t spoken with him, but I know that he dropped his own ballot-paper and the rest of the video is editing. All this is a provocation by the UNM,” he said.
Usupov switched from National movement to Georgian Dream in 2012, but Kaladze said in his statement that Usupov has nothing to do with Georgian Dream and he has never been a coalition member.
Georgian Dream also claims that Iusupov is a friend of Azer Suleimanov, former MP from UNM.
Members of UNM also say that the fact that the election commission canceled the results on those precincts confirms that the video was not staged.
Merab Topchishvili, the Georgian Dream candidate for head of municipality in Marneuli, who the day before withdrew his candidacy and then changed his mind after winning by more than 50%, said that the video published by the UNM is a fabrication made in order to discredit the election.
Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said it was a provocation and an attempt to mislead people. He said the new government put an end to election fraud.
“The accusation that there was an attempt to fabricate votes at some precinct is absurd,” he said.