Violence and other possible criminal acts jeopardize free expression of voters’ will

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy reacts to the violent incident that occurred in Zugdidi, on May 14, against the background of the upcoming by-elections and media reports about possible electoral crimes.

In a secret video recording released on May 14, Sakrebulo Member from the p/u Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia, Gia Danelia is telling his interlocutor about instructions provided at a meeting held together with the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia representatives from Tbilisi, that methods of intimidation, bribery, kidnapping and exertion of influence on will of citizens should be used, if needed, in order to secure victory for the ruling party in the upcoming elections. The interlocutors also talk about a possible intention to harass a local entrepreneur. Notably, before the video was made public, several individuals talked to media about possible instances of vote buying.

Additionally, a violent incident occurred in the process of preparation of an Odishi TV program on May 14, during which the UNM-United Opposition mayoral candidate in Zugdidi and Odishi TV camera crew were verbally and physically assaulted by the Georgian Dream activists. In connection to the incident, MIA has launched an investigation under art.126 of the Criminal Code of Georgia and it has apprehended one person.

Contents of the video that has been released expose elements of possible crime. In particular, it exposes possible preparation of crime with involvement of Sakrebulo Members from the ruling party, which entails vote buying, intimidation and possible abduction with the aim of interfering with expression of voters’ will.

In addition to violence, the recording of the May 14 incident also reveals interference with journalistic reporting.

ISFED believes that an action that contains elements of any crime, identified during the campaigning process, which is directed toward violence, disruption of campaigning, interference with journalistic reporting, vote buying or intimidation, threatens democratic electoral processes, violates the principle of free expression of voters’ will and may interfere with realization of the right to vote guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia. The foregoing actions warrant immediate, effective and timely response by the law enforcement bodies.

ISFED urges:

The law enforcement authorities:

  • to investigate and prosecute these facts in a timely manner, without bias, comprehensively and with appropriate qualification
  • to adequately respond to any attempt at possible electoral violation in the by-election process and ensure safe environment for the May 19 by-elections.

Political parties and their activists:

  • to refrain from violent actions, intimidation and bribing of voters, and not to interfere with free expression of voters’ will
  • the ruling party should clearly distance itself from violent incidents, attempts of pressuring or bribing voters and express a clear position about these facts.