TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili’s administration is accused of bribing voters, after several closed meetings with the population in different cities in Georgia, Maestro TV reports.

The meetings were held to introduce the ruling National Movement party’s election program to teachers and students. After the political speeches were over, attendees were treated to a small feast.

This can be considered as an attempt to bribe voters, according to groups involved in election monitoring. According to the current law, a party is not allowed to propose any free services to the voter, including free meals.

The meetings are closed for the media, but the news website TS Press managed to make a recording of a meeting in Poti, revealing that the ruling party made promises about increasing pensions, creating new jobs and improving the healthcare system.

Although political parties have a right to hold such meetings, as long as they don’t try to bribe voters, NGOs consider it suspicious that the meetings are closed for the media.

“What will happen if such kinds of closed meetings becomes common and parties start holding closed meetings, which will be called meeting with voters?” Nina Khatiskatsi from Transparency International Georgia asks, adding that bribing voters is a crime during the whole election year.

“If such meetings will be closed, there are too many questions – what’s happening at these meetings, what kinds of promises are there, is there bribery of the voters?”

Studio GNS also released footage of a meeting with National Movement, where the ruling party hosted guests with a meal afterwards.

Pavle Kublashvili, head of parliament’s committee for judiciary issues, and Gigi Ugulava, Tbilisi mayor, who also are holding meetings in Tbilisi, say that National Movement has started the election campaign and these meetings are part of the campaign.