An umbrella group of watchdog and media organizations, campaigning on election-related issues, said on June 13 that recent actions of the state audit agency, prosecutor’s office and courts against opposition “are tainted with subjectivity and inequality.”
“Notwithstanding the unanimous request of the civil society for the public to enjoy access to pluralist media, the ways of disseminating and receiving the information are curbed on a daily basis, mainly by political motives,” the group, known as This Affects You Too, said in a statement.
It called on President Saakashvili “to immediately carry out adequate measures to ensure a fair pre-election and media environment.”
“Otherwise the legitimacy of the upcoming parliamentary elections may be questioned,” the group said.
It also said that charges and sanctions applied by the state audit agency, prosecutor’s office and courts to representatives and supporters of political parties “are often based on one-sided and insufficiently substantiated facts or assumptions.”
Court in Kutaisi released two activists of Bidzina Ivanishvili-led Georgian Dream opposition coalition on GEL 3,000 bail each on June 9 and sent three other activists to pre-trial detention after they were charged into the 'dream flyers vote-buying' case.
On June 11 the state audit agency, which is also in charge of monitoring political finances, said that a ruling party member of Rustavi City Council violated law on political parties when he handed out wine and sheep to local residents in Rustavi and requested the court to fine him. But Tbilisi-based watchdog Transparency International-Georgia, which is part of This Affects You Too campaign group, said that the state audit agency’s decision was “somewhat surprising” because the ruling party member’s actions should have been considered as vote buying, involving criminal charges, and not as administrative offense.
In its statement on June 13 This Affects You Too called on the state audit agency to stop “using unequal and biased approaches in the party monitoring process” and “to probe with equal efficiency and to seek adequate responsibility not only towards the offences committed by the representatives and supporters of opposition political forces, but also towards the ruling party as well.”
The group also called on the judiciary “to carry out a full, objective and comprehensive examination of the case circumstances” and “to ensure equality of the parties and to provide them with sufficient time for preparing for hearings and producing evidence.” It said that the prosecutor’s office should “to efficiently examine” media reports about cases involving politically-motivated crimes, as well as cases of hindering work of journalists.
The group has also called on Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections (IATF) at the National Security Council of Georgia, to recommend relevant authorities to raise the issue of liability of those officials involved in misuse of administrative resources or in intimidation of voters.
IATF, which was established to react on electoral violations ahead of the October parliamentary elections, said on June 13, that it was studying several cases of firing of public school and state agencies’ employees for allegedly political reasons. In one case, it said, a public school teacher in Kharagauli claimed she faced dismissal because of political motives upon the instructions from a local official of the Education Ministry. According to IATF, while the official denied this allegation, he did confirm having communicated with local school principals telling them that political campaigning within the educational institutions was unacceptable. IATF said that this kind of communication with school principals was “a disciplinary violation”, as a result the official had to resign.
In a separate statement also on June 13, IATF said that it had recommended the Healthcare Ministry to suspend during the electoral period routine re-evaluation aimed at determining whether a recipient of state-funded allowance is still eligible or not under the ‘family welfare index’ to keep receiving aid designed for the socially most vulnerable citizens. There have been cases when some recipients of aid have claimed that their social allowances were suspended because of their support to opposition. IATF said that although some of these allegations were not confirmed and in some cases suspension of aid was legitimate, it anyway decided to recommend the Healthcare Ministry to suspend re-evaluation process in the electoral period in order to prevent political speculations.