ISFED reports to SAO a possible vote buying incident by the Georgian Dream
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) has filed applications with the State Audit Office (SAO) and the Central Elections Commission (CEC), demanding that SAO launch a probe into a possible vote buying by the Georgian Dream for Democratic Georgia and a non-profit legal entity “Georgian Dream – Healthy Future”, and the CEC to investigate possible illegal participation of the Georgian Dream – Healthy Future in election campaign (canvassing).
Based on a news release published on the official website of Tbilisi Sakrebulo on June 30, 2016, under the initiative of Rima Beridze, who serves as a chair of Sakrebulo faction “Georgian Dream for Democratic Georgia” and a majoritarian member of Sakrebulo for Chughureti District, public school teachers in Chughureti District received free medical examinations organized by Ketevan Barateli, head of the organization Georgian Dream – Healthy Future. The examinations for nearly 200 public school employees were performed in St. Michael’s Clinic.
ISFED believes that provision of free medical examinations to public school teachers by Majoritarian Member of Sakrebulo Rima Beridze and the non-profit legal entity Georgian Dream – Healthy Future contains possible signs of vote buying. Article 252 of the organic law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens prohibits vote buying and stipulates that a party is prohibited from giving funds, gifts and other material or non-material possessions to citizens of Georgia personally or through its candidates, representatives or other persons; it is also prohibited to distribute or disseminate services free of charge among citizens of Georgia on behalf of a political party or to make any such promise.
Violation of the foregoing legal requirements will be punished by imposition of a fine on the party, the party representative, or the legal entity concerned, amounting to ten times the value of the possession (service) or the deal in question. For natural persons the fine will amount to double the value.
Reports of administrative offence for these types of violations are drawn up by SAO and sent to court for further consideration.
Notably, the logo of Georgian Dream – Healthy Future as displayed on their Facebook page is identical to the logo of party Georgian Dream for Democratic Georgia. In addition, the organization also uses symbols of the party on its Facebook page, which leads us to believe that it is working to promote interests of the Georgian Dream for Democratic Georgia.
Georgian Dream – Healthy Future carries out charity work, as shown by a number of media reports also available on the official Facebook page of the organization. This is in violation of the requirement of the Election Code of Georgia stipulating that charity organizations are prohibited from participating in election campaign (canvassing), which the Code defines as actions that facilitate election of an electoral subject.
By virtue of the Election Code, participation in election campaign in violation of the law is punishable by fine of 2 000 GEL. Corresponding report of violation is drawn up by the CEC and sent to court for further consideration.
ISFED urges political parties and their representatives to refrain from engaging in activities with charitable cause that amount to vote buying. These activities have a negative impact on electoral environment and depending on their seriousness, may bring about grave consequences for organizers, parties, their representative, as well as beneficiaries, as they may be criminally prosecuted.