Civil.ge continues publishing its weekly election digest, a news compilation covering the political party campaigns, election procedures and other pre-election developments, as well as related political happenings, ahead of the October 21 municipal polls.
The fifth digest covers the developments of past week (October 2-8).
Race for Tbilisi - Kakha Kaladze on “good relations” with central government; Elisashvili the historian; Rustavi 2 TV’s Tbilisi ratings:
- Georgian Dream’s mayoral candidate Kakha Kaladze continues presenting the key components of his electoral program. On October 3, he spoke about the priorities of his economic policy and focused on the rehabilitation of the Old Town, as well as on the development of night-time economy. Kaladze said that attracting the multi-million investments that are required for these projects would be impossible without “good relations” with the central government. “Our advantage is that we have good relations with the central government, and therefore, it is realistic to receive more funds [from the central budget],” Kaladze said;
- Aleko Elisashvili, independent Tbilisi mayoral candidate, appeared before his supporters last week in the capacity of Tbilisi historian. On October 6, he presented his book “the Story of Tbilisi,” and on October 8, he delivered a public lecture on Tbilisi’s urban festivals, and guided an excursion in the Old Town. Last week, Elisashvili also invited Kakha Kaladze to participate in debates with him, but the latter rejected the proposal and said he would participate only if all other mayoral candidates took part in the debates;
- Two weeks before the municipal elections, Rustavi 2 TV released the ratings of Tbilisi mayoral candidates. The survey, commissioned by Rustavi 2 TV, was conducted by the U.S.-based Edison Research in the period between September 22 and October 2. According to the survey, 39% of respondents plan to vote for GDDG’s Kakha Kaladze; with UNM’s Zaal Udumashvili and Aleko Elisashvili garnering equal support - 14% each. 5% of respondents would support Elene Khoshtaria of the European Georgia and 1-2% of respondents said they would support candidates of other parties – Tengiz Shergelashvili, Giorgi Vashadze, Kakha Kukava, Irma Inashvili and Giorgi Gugava. According to the survey, 39% of respondents consider that there would be a second round of mayoral elections in Tbilisi. Rustavi 2 TV has also hired the Edison Research to conduct exit polls in Tbilisi and Kutaisi on the Election Day, on October 21.
Party Presentations - ruling, opposition parties continue presenting mayoral and Sakrebulo candidates:
- Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili presented Georgian Dream’s mayoral candidates in four municipalities of Shida Kartli region. Speaking at a campaign event in Gori, Kvirikashvili focused on the problem of Russian occupation and noted that “it is the duty of our generation to peacefully unite the country;”
- Opposition parties were also active in presenting their candidates: the European Georgia named its candidates in several municipalities – Dusheti, Kazbegi and Bolnisi. Tbilisi mayoral candidate Giorgi Vashadze presented majoritarian candidates of his New Georgia party in Vazisubani and Nadzaladevi single-mandate constituencies of Tbilisi. The Democratic Movement – Free Georgia named mayoral and Sakrebulo chairmanship candidates in Imereti, Samegrelo and Guria regions. Davit Usupashvili’s Development Movement presented majoritarian candidates in Poti, Zugdidi and Kutaisi.
Party Campaigns/Rallies - UNM, EG rally against possible transfer of lands to Ivanishvili-affiliated companies; GDDG leaders respond to criticism; Mikheil Saakashvili weighs into the campaign:
- Last week started with a rally outside the Tbilisi City Hall, where the leaders and supporters of the United National Movement gathered to protest against the transfer of land plots located near the Pushkin Square and the Botanical Garden at a symbolic price to the construction companies affiliated with ex-Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. The rally ended with the administrative detention of several UNM activists. A day earlier, the European Georgia also held a protest rally on the same issue;
- On October 3, Georgian Dream leaders responded to the opposition’s accusations that the land plots would serve Bidzina Ivanishvili business interests. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili slammed the opposition claims as “a great injustice,” adding that the two land plots would be used for arranging a parking lot and for developing green spaces near the Botanical Garden. Kvirikashvili also addressed his teammates: “Let’s be a bit bolder when telling the truth to our population. Bidzina Ivanishvili does not deserve what he is receiving back. This is a great injustice.” Georgian Dream’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate Kakha Kaladze spoke in support Ivanishvili as well, accusing the opposition of spreading lies;
- Two weeks before the municipal elections, former President Mikheil Saakashvili weighed into the election campaign. Speaking to Rustavi 2 TV, Saakashvili praised the candidacy of UNM’s Tbilisi mayoral candidate Zaal Udumashvili and called on the voters to rally behind him. “Zaliko is a very decent person, he loves his country very much and has refrained from doing harm [to the country]. Time has come to value his reservation, his decency and his love [for the country],” Saakashvili said. He also called on the voters to support UNM’s Kutaisi mayoral candidate Grigol Vashadze, and spoke about the European Georgia leaders, who he accused of acting in favor of Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Election Monitoring and Violations - the ruling party accused of illegal campaigning, and of exerting pressure on voters; EG reports on facts of violence and threats; UNM speaks of pressure on its candidates; Interagency Commission releases its interim report:
- Rustavi 2 TV aired several reports on election violations last week. According to the television channel, directors of several kindergartens in Tbilisi were campaigning in favor of the ruling party and compiling lists of likely voters of GDDG. Moreover, Georgian Dream’s campaign event in the village of Sadakhlo of Marneuli Municipality was reportedly attended by the local public school teachers and pupils that thwarted the learning process. The ruling party rejected the claims, but the non-governmental organizations slammed the alleged participation as “the use of administrative resources,” and called for full investigation of violations;
- Reports emerged last week concerning the pressure on ethnic Azerbaijani voters in Dmanisi Municipality with the representatives of the Development Movement accusing the ruling party’s coordinators of the violation. The incumbent Gamgebeli (mayor) of Dmanisi Municipality and the mayoral candidate of the Development Movement said that the GDDG coordinators forced citizens to swear on the Quran that they would vote for the ruling party. The claims were discussed at a session of the Interagency Commission for Free and Fair Elections, with Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani, who heads the commission, saying: “It is absolutely unacceptable to make a person swear on the Quran or on the Bible in order to secure their support. We all – politicians, parties – should understand that a voter makes a free choice only at a ballot box;”
- On October 5, the United National Movement reported that several Sakrebulo candidates from the party refused to run in the elections. The opposition cited the pressure by the government as the reason behind the candidates’ decisions;
- The European Georgia reported on several facts of violence and election violations. The party said that its campaign posters were torn down in Zugdidi Municipality, and that the party’s supporters were attacked in Bolnisi. The party also reported that on October 8 an armed person entered their campaign headquarters in Telavi and called on the party activists to suspend their election campaign. Police arrested the assailant and seized a toy weapon from him. Investigation has been launched under article 151 of the criminal code of Georgia involving menace;
- The Interagency Commission for Free and Fair Elections, which is tasked to study the election violations and develop respective recommendations for addressing these violations, released an interim report on October 2. According to the report, in the period between June 30 and October 2, the commission discussed 43 issues and upon its requests, the prosecutor’s office launched investigation into 11 criminal cases.
Election Administration - Voters’ List Verification Continues:
- The Central Election Commission continues the voters’ list verification efforts. On October 6, the Justice Ministry’s Public Service Development Agency transferred to CEC the data of 3 496 461 potential voters. CEC will release the final list once it finishes processing tha data.
For earlier pre-election developments please refer to Weekly Digests No. 4, No. 3, No. 2 and No. 1.