What we need to know about pre-election campaign
On June 8, 2016, the Prime Minister countersigned the President’s Decree on calling of elections and the decree was published on the CEC website, which marked the formal launch of the pre-election campaign. During the pre-election period, a special set of standards applies to political parties, candidates, civil servants, local self-governments, political office holders, media and the electoral management body (EMB).
Pre-election campaign/agitation rules
Pre-election campaign is a set of measures carried out by an electoral subject/candidate for electoral subject aimed at running in and winning elections; Pre-election. Canvassing is an important component of pre-election campaign.
Canvassing is an appeal to voters in favor of or against an electoral subject/candidate, as well as any public action facilitating or impeding its election and/or containing signs of election campaign including the participation in organization/conduct of pre-electoral events, preservation or dissemination of election materials, work on the list of supporters, presence in the representations of political parties.
During pre-election period political parties and candidates for electoral subject are entitled to equal rights and subject to equal obligations, as prescribed by the Election Code.
By virtue of the Election Code, political parties are entitled to certain rights and subject to certain obligations that must be fulfilled within a strictly limited period of time. For instance, authorized electoral subjects should submit to the Central Election Commission (CEC) their candidacies for membership of electoral districts. Parties should apply to the CEC for registration within a specific timeframe, provide party lists, appoint representatives to the EMB, etc.
One of the most important responsibilities of electoral subjects (parties and independent candidates) is financial reporting before the State Audit Office (SAO). Specifically, political subjects should, after registering as electoral subjects, create election campaign fund and provide their bank account details to the SAO. Throughout the electoral period, political parties should also submit their reports of election campaign expense to the SAO every three weeks.
Electoral Management Body
The Electoral Management Body (EMB) provides oversight for pre-election campaigning. The Election Code provides specific timeframe for elections, based on which the CEC creates a schedule of electoral events. The schedule will guide the work of District Electoral Commissions (DECs), political parties, candidates, monitoring organizations, media, local self-governments and other election stakeholders.
In this regard, staffing of DECs and Precinct Electoral Commissions (PECs), registration of parties and candidates, accreditation of media and local as well as international representatives, publication of number of voters, etc. is especially important.
During the election period, local self-governments’ responsibilities include: providing level playing field for electoral subjects and ensuring smooth operation of precinct and district electoral commissions. They should designate places for posting of campaign materials, as well as buildings for campaign meetings. Within a prescribed timeframe they should publish the list of buildings and places where campaign materials are prohibited to be placed, as well as the list of places for posting and displaying campaign materials.
Regulation of coverage of pre-election processes by media is a complex issue. Georgian legislation provides strict regulations for balancing social-political programs and for placement of political advertising.
The Election Code stipulates that in the course of election campaigning, when broadcasting social-political programs and elections, a broadcaster must observe the principle of impartiality and fairness.
A general broadcaster intending to cover election campaigning must broadcast pre-election debates in a non-discriminatory manner and with the participation of all qualified electoral subjects in the course of the election campaigning within its coverage area.
The law also provides regulations for placement of paid and free political advertising. When broadcasting a political advertisement, the screen corner must display the inscription ‘paid political advertising’ or ‘free political advertising’. It is prohibited to publish public opinion poll results with regard to elections within 48 hours before polling day and until 20:00 of that day, except for the possible number of voters in elections and the number of voters participating in elections on polling day.
Prohibition to use public resources
The Election Code strictly prohibits conducting election campaign (canvassing) in the premises of the following institution:
• executive agencies of Georgia
• military units
The Election Code also prohibits the following individuals from conducting and participating in election campaigning/canvassing:
• election commission members;
• public officers of the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia, the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Defense, of the State Security Service of Georgia, the Georgian Intelligence Service, and the Special State Protection Service of Georgia;
• the Auditor General;
• the Public Defender of Georgia;
• aliens and foreign organizations;
• charitable and religious organizations;
• public officers of state authorities and local self-government bodies during normal business hours and/or when they are directly performing their duties;
• members of the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) and the Georgian National Energy and Water Supply Regulatory Commission (GNEWSRC).
During the pre-election period officials are prohibited from:
• getting any career subordinate or otherwise dependent person involved in an activity that may support to presentation and/or election of a candidate;
• collecting signatures and conducting canvassing during business trips funded by state authorities or local self-government bodies;
• conducting canvassing during working hours and/or in the course of performing official duties.
Prohibition to participate in pre-election campaigning does not apply to: the President of Georgia, Georgian MPs, the Prime Minister of Georgia, other members of the Government of Georgia and their deputies, members of the Supreme Representative Bodies of the Autonomous Republics of Abkhazia and Ajara, heads of the Governments of the Autonomous Republics of Abkhazia and Ajara, as well as members of a local self-government representative body and heads of its executive body, also State Trustee - the Governor;
• equal availability of the state owned premises must be ensured for all electoral subjects;
• use of means of communication, information services, and other kinds of equipment designated for state authorities and local self-government bodies for election purposes is prohibited;
• use of means of transportation owned by state authorities or local self-government bodies is prohibited. The restriction does not apply o the use of service vehicles by public political officials that are protected by the Special State Security Service as defined in this Law.
• It is prohibited to carry on election campaigning at any event/presentation funded from the State Budget of Georgia/the budget of local self-governing unit.
• It is prohibited to produce, by funds from the State Budget/local self-government unit budget of Georgia, campaign materials, video or audio materials, or to create the website or any part thereof where any electoral subject/political party or its sequence number assigned during elections is displayed and/or which comprise materials in support of/against any electoral subject/political party.
• It is also prohibited to show an electoral subject/political party or a sequence number assigned thereto during elections in a public service announcement (PSA) made by funds from the State Budget/local self-government unit budget of Georgia.
Violation of the foregoing requirements will be subject to a penalty in the amount of GEL 2 000.
Starting from today until the publication of final results of elections, it is prohibited for electoral subjects, candidates for electoral subject, and their representatives to give funds, gifts, and other material possessions to the citizens of Georgia, personally or through other persons, except for distribution of campaign materials. It is also prohibited to motivate Georgian citizens by promising to give them funds and other material possessions.
Registration of the electoral subject that, personally or through any representative or any other individual or legal entity acting in his/her behalf, has carried out prohibited activities provided for by this article will be revoked by a court decision if those facts are confirmed.