Evaluation of the Pre-Election Period of the Parliamentary By-Elections in Khoni-Vani Majoritarian District
On 28 April 2018, parliamentary by-elections will be held in Khoni and Vani Majoritarian District. The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) will monitor the April 28 by-elections at polling stations by means of 25 short-term observers, two DEC observers and 2 mobile groups.
These by-elections mark the first time that elections are held under the new composition of the electoral administration. In particular, all levels of the electoral administration will be composed of 12 members including 6 party-appointed members 3 of which are appointed by the Georgian Dream.
5 political party candidates and 1 independent candidate will be competing in the by-elections in Khoni and Vani Majoritarian District. 12 political parties have boycotted the by-elections due to unequal electoral legislation.1
The pre-election campaign took place in a peaceful environment, no large-scale violations of the electoral legislation have been detected. Among the registered candidates the following were particularly active: candidate of the European Georgia – Movement for Freedom Gigi Ugulava, who moved to and registered in Khoni District, and candidate of the Georgian Dream and former governor of Imereti Givi Chichinadze. Members of the Government of Georgia and the Prime Minister himself actively participated in the election campaign of the ruling party candidate. Ministers often visited the electoral district and introduced local population to reforms implemented by the state in their respective fields.
According to ISFED’s information, not complaints have been brought before the electoral administration over the election campaign.
Representatives of the European Georgia reported violations during the pre-election period and applied to the Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections.
- According to the European Georgia, representative of Energo-Pro Georgia Shalva Lortkipanidze, who is also a member of Vani Sakrebulo threatened supporters of the European Georgia - brothers named Mirza and Tengiz Beltadze who own a carwash, with a fine of GEL 3,000. The party contends that the threat is related to photos taken with Gigi Ugulava during the election campaign and support expressed towards the candidate. During consideration of the issue at the Inter-Agency Commission, the Interior Ministry presented results of interviews of participating sides, demonstrating that Mirza and Tengiz Beltadze did not corroborate the incident. Notably the Beltadzes declined an interview with ISFED observer about the fact. In communication with ISFED, Energo-Pro Georgia dismissed the allegations and stated that the carwash was inspected due to the necessity of a planned visit.
- During the pre-election period campaign materials of Bakradze-Ugulava – European Georgia were covered up by election posters of the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia. Representatives of the European Georgia report that covering up of campaign materials was especially frequent when a representative of the government was holding a meeting in Khoni in support of Givi Chichinadze. According to party representatives, during the visit of the Prime Minister all campaign materials of the European Georgia were removed. Gigi Ugulava’s campaign posters in Khoni were also removed the day before the elections.
- Attempt of Kutaisi Sakrebulo to give nearly 50 secondary outdoor lights to Khoni Municipality on April 24 contained elements of possible misuse of administrative resources, but the issue was removed from the agenda several hours before the meeting of Sakrebulo, following protest of the opposition. A member of Kutaisi Sakrebulo from the European Georgia believes that with this action the leadership of Kutaisi Municipality expressed their endorsement of the ruling party candidate Givi Chichinadze during the pre-election period.
- Opening of a newly built gas distribution network intended for three villages of Khoni District the day before the polling day contains elements of use of administrative resources. The event will be attended by the Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, First Deputy Trustee of the State in Imereti, Khoni Municipality Mayor and Director of SOCAR Georgia Gas. The fact that the event is held the day before the by-elections suggests that it is possibly meant to gain support of voters and creates suspicions about misuse of administrative resources. The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) urges all stakeholders of the April 28 by-elections to promote conduct of the Election Day in a peaceful environment and in abidance by the legal procedures.
1The following parties have boycotted the by-elections: New Rights, New Georgia, Democratic Movement – United Georgia, European Democrats, United National Movement, National-Democratic Party, Free Georgia, Liberty, Labor Party, Civil alliance for Freedom, Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, Political Movement of Law Enforcement Veterans and Patriots.