Leading Georgian NGO raises concerns about arrests ahead of elections.

The Georgian Young Lawyers Association has issued a statement in which its raises concerns about arrests of dozens of people in Georgia from 21-24 September. In a statement, the respected NGO which has an excellent track record of twenty years working for human rights in Georgia stated the following:

In response to the recent frequent administrative arrests in Georgia, GYLA would like to state that identity and status of certain individuals, their political or civil activities and circumstances of their arrest as well as proceedings where court ordered administrative imprisonment against them raises doubts about motivation of measures applied.

GYLA is particularly concerned with the fact that during recent days there has been a frequent cases of application of administrative detention. According to various reports, from September 21 to September 24, there were total of 23 administrative arrests on charges of disobedience to the police in several cities of Georgia . Some of the detainees are representatives of or associated with the opposition coalition Georgian Dream, including Davit Patsatsia arrested on September 21, and Kakhaber Zhorzholiani arrested on September 23. The detainees’ relation with the coalition Georgian Dream was confirmed by one of the representatives of the coalition, who informed GYLA that the detainees are coordinators and members of the coalition’s mobile group. The detainees also include persons actively involved in recent protest assemblies – Dachi Tsaguria and Beka Aladashvili, arrested on September 22, whose interests were defended by GYLA’s representative in court. More…

ODIHR’s first interim report on Georgia a non-event.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Election Observation Mission for the Georgian Parliamentary Elections has published its first interim report covering the period from 22 August to 5 September 2012.

The report  has been characterised by some following the Georgian election process as a bland and expensive non-event since it waffles through the main issues that have been at the centre of the Georgian Electoral process. A team of several dozen core and so called ”long term” members of the mission deployed at the end of August, months after the election campaign had started in earnest. The report makes no attempt to capture the many controversies that have dominated the process so far. The core and “long term” observers are due to be joined for elections day by 350 short term observers deployed from the OSCE member states.

A second report is due shortly before the day of the elections.

The ODIHR EOM to Georgia first interim report is available here.

source: CEW

ODIHR Election Observation Mission in Georgia starts its work.

The OSCE has announced that its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) has launched its Election Observation Mission ahead of the  1 October Parliamentary elections in Georgia. A statement on the OSCE website says:

“The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) today opened an election observation mission for the parliamentary elections to be held in Georgia on 1 October.

The mission’s deployment follows an invitation from the Georgian Foreign Ministry.

The mission is led by Nikolai Vulchanov and consists of 15 international experts based in Tbilisi and 28 long-term observers to be deployed throughout the country. In addition, ODIHR will request 350 short-term observers to monitor election-day proceedings and the counting process. More…

Initiative of the United National Movement assessed positively by Georgian Opposition Parties.

An initiative from the governing United National Movement ahead of next October’s parliamentary elections in Georgia has been broadly welcomed by a number of opposition parties.

The initiative follows incidents in which supporters of government and opposition clashed in several areas of Georgia during activities of the Georgian Dream opposition coalition. The UNM has proposed that all parties sign a four point code of conduct, which says that despite having substantial difference on many issues signatory political parties “recognise the decisive importance of free, fair and peaceful electoral process for the country’s further democratic development.” More…

NDI poll indicates two way race in October Elections in Georgia 2

From June 4-22, the Caucasus Resource research Centre (CRRC), conducted nation-wide poll in Georgia for the US based non-profit think tank National Democratic Institute (NDI). The NDI and CRRC conducted 6229 face-to-face interviews over the most recent and fourth phase of this study.
The figures indicate that the October Parliamentary Elections in Georgia will be a two way race between the ruling United National Movement and the Georgian Dream Coalition.Whilst the UNM maintained a considerable lead in the polls, as compared to an earlier NDI poll conducted in February the gap between the two parties has closed considerably. A third party, the Christian Democrats trailed far behind.

                                                                        June 2012                   February 2012

United National Movement                                      36%                            47%

Georgian Dream Coalition                                       18%                            10%

Christian Democrats                                                      3%                             3%

The poll has a margin of error plus, minus 2%.

According to the same poll 22% were undecided, almost the same number as it was in February and 16% refused to answer, up from 10% in February and 4% said they would vote for none of the parties. More…


EU increasingly concerned about growing political tension and polarisation in Georgia.

The European Union Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, expressed his concerns regarding the increased political tensions in Georgia after meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in Brussels on 28 June.

Füle noted that “the parliamentary election in October and presidential elections in 2013 will be important test cases for Georgian democracy and we encourage all political forces to respect the electoral process and make sure that the voting is free and fair.”

Acknowledging that Georgia has made important progress, he also cautioned that “it is also clear that Georgia needs to take further steps and continue this path of modernization and to consolidate democracy.” More…

Georgian Government accepts the “must carry” initiative.

David Bakradze, Chairman of the Georgian Parliament announced on 22 June that the parliament will legislate within days to adopt the “must carry/must offer” initiative, but this will apply only during the election period.

The Georgian government has decided to accept a proposal of numerous Georgian civil society organisations, aimed at widening access to information available to the Georgian public ahead of Parliamentary elections in October. Parliament is expected to legislate soon so that all cable operators will have to carry all news channels during the election period.

The Chairman of the Georgian Parliament, David Bakradze, said on 22 June that the new legislation would create additional “guarantees to allow television stations to reach out to a larger audience and to expand the area of their coverage.”

Bakradze added that “In particular, the initiative envisages the carrying of all television channels by all the cable operators during the electoral period; I want to stress that it will apply to all the television stations and it will be a huge step that will help the population to receive more information.” Details of the new legislation have not yet been made public, but the announcement was welcomed by both NGOs and opposition parties. More…

Georgian authorities seize 60,000 satellite dishes alleging vote-buying scheme by opposition coalition. Legal watchdogs say the move is illegal.

On 21 June, Georgian police raided warehouses across the country, seizing an estimated 60,000 satellite dish antennas that were to be distributed free of charge by Global TV.

Georgian authorities have claimed that the seizure is part of an on-going criminal investigation into alleged vote-buying by Global TV, in favour of Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the opposition coalition Georgian Dream.

Ivanishvili has been sentenced to a multimillion dollar fine for a loan he made to Global TV to import the satellite dishes. The government has accused Global TV of campaigning for Georgian Dream by portraying the dishes as gifts from the coalition’s leader.

The dishes, which were to be distributed free of charge for one year across the country and then paid for at GEL 4 per month thereafter, were part of a scheme through which Global TV aimed to increase access to all media outlets throughout the country. Currently, Global TV is the only cable provider that offers access to Tbilisi based Channel 9 and Maestro TV, which are considered to be pro-opposition media sources. At the moment, only the major TV networks, Imedi and Rustavi 2 – portrayed as pro-government , are available on all major cable providers throughout the country. Both of these channels have requested their signal be discontinued on Global TV. More…

More changes to Georgian election code. US Ambassador says time to move from process to substance.

The Georgian Parliament in session

On June 12, the Georgian parliament passed the first reading of the draft amendments to the national election code.

Amendments include modifying the eligibility criteria for voter and political participation, decreasing the legal age requirement for running for office, extending the mandate of the Voters’ List Verification Commission (VLVC), as well as establishing criteria for international electoral observers monitoring Georgian elections.  

The amendments are designed to bring the Election Code in line with the May 2012 constitutional amendments which came into force at the beginning of June. More…

Prosecutors and footballers, journalists and actors: a colourful mix of candidates start lining up for Georgia’s parliamentary elections.

Political parties in Georgia have started preparing candidates for next October’s parliamentary elections.

Davit Sakvarelidze, has resigned from his post as First Deputy Prosecutor General of Georgia to contest a parliamentary seat in the capital Tbilisi

The First Deputy Prosecutor General of Georgia, Davit Sakvarelidze, announced on June 11 that he was resigning in order to enter politics. Georgian media have speculated over the last days that Sakvarelidze will become the majoritarian candidate for the ruling United National movement (UNM) in the Krtsanisi District of the Capital Tbilisi.

A UNM official told the Georgian news portal Civil.ge on that Sakvarelidze’s possible candidacy in Krtsanisi single-mandate constituency was under consideration, but no final decision was yet made.

In the meantime, at a Rally held in Kutaisi, the leader of the Georgian Dream Coalition, Bidhzina Ivanishvili has named six out of the twelve majoritarian candidates for the Imereti region of Georgia.

Gubaz Sanikidze, one of the leaders of National Forum – one of the parties within the Georgian Dream coalition will run in Kutaisi, which is Georgia’s second largest city and one of the largest single-mandate constituencies.

Kakha Kaladze, a retired footballer, who was a captain of the Georgian national team and who won the Champions League on two occasions with AC Milan, will run in his native town of Samtredia. He is pictured hear wearing the distinctive red and black Milan colours during match with Fiorentina

Kakha Kaladze, a retired footballer, who was a captain of the Georgian national team and who won the Champions League on two occasions with AC Milan, will run in his native town of Samtredia. More…

Georgia in transition: US leaders hammer in importance of free and fair elections

American political leaders have over the last few days highlighted the importance of free and fair elections in Georgia whilst also expressing support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and for the right of the Georgian nation to decide its future.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton linked the two messages during a press conference in Batumi on June 5th, at the end of her visit to the country. She said that free and fair elections that will result into a fully democratic transfer of power will be the “single best thing” Georgia can do to advance its security, democracy and international reputation. More…

Georgian Government sets up inter-agency election task force

The Georgian government announced on May 18 that it was setting up of an inter-agency group to monitor and react on possible violations ahead of October parliamentary elections and “to ensure a transparent and fair” electoral environment.

Giga Bokeria, Secretary of the Georgian National Security Council and Head of the Election Task Force (picture courtesy of BBC)

The Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections (IATF) is headed by Secretary of National Security Council Giga Bokeria, and includes representatives from the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Justice, Regional Development and Infrastructure, Finance, and Foreign Affairs, as well as from the office of National Security Council.

Creation of such group is envisaged by the election code, according to which the deadline for setting of the inter-agency task force was July 1, 2012. According to the election code, IATF is mandated with “preventing of and reacting to violations of electoral legislature by public officials.” More…

Georgian Civil society struggles to regain former glory.

For the last nine years Georgian NGOs and civil society in general have been struggling to regain the status within their society that they held prior to the Rose Revolution of November 2003. That event on the one hand brought many civil society leaders into the political mainstream, as the government of President Saakashvili tapped into the talent of the mainly young civil society leadership to fill many government posts. On the other hand the government’s approach to what was left of civil society has since then not always been friendly. A senior government official recently described civil society leaders as “Tbilisi based, elitist and disconnected”.

There are some signs that a new generation of civil society leaders are now ready to reclaim the ground lost. More…

Saakashvili’s solemn promise 2

Georgian President  Mikheil Saakashvili has repeated his committment to hold free, fair and transparent parliamentary elections in the Autumn. Addressing a meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Economic Forum in the Georgian Black Sea Port of Batumi, Saakashvili described the committment as important for the country’s future security.

“We would like a large number of international observers, including from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to come before the elections,” Saakashvili said. “We want to get their advice before the elections. The advice will enable us to improve the pre-election sphere to conduct the most transparent elections.” The Georgian President said ”we are ready to cooperate with international institutions and will do everything to hold just elections for no one to have any questions.”

The Georgian President also said that Russia had decided to conduct large military exercises in the Caucasus region close to the Georgian elections . The President said that for these reasons the elections are very important, “on the one hand, for Georgian credentials, but they also have a huge security dimension.”

source: CEW

Persistent reports of intimidation of opposition activists in Georgia’s regions.

Georgian media has over the last weeks carried a string of reports of intimidation, by officials of local authorities, of opposition supporters in Georgia’s regions. There are also reports of violence against opposition activists.

Rezonansi newspaper and other media outlets have reported the dismissal of more than twenty school teachers in the Shida Kartli region due to their support of opposition parties, or as in the case of Gori School teacher, Ia Bzhalava, because her husband was an activist of the opposition Free Democrats.

The web site Democracy and Freedom (DF) Watch also reported the case of Giorgi Beruashvili, former employee of Privat-Bank in Kareli, a village in Shida Kartli, who was fired only because his sister and mother were attending a Georgian Dream meeting. He told DF Watch that he was considered as one of the bank’s most valued employees before that presentation, and no one had ever mentioned that he was in danger of being fired. But the day after the presentation, he was told that he was fired, because ‘members of his family think in an opposition way.’

Tsisana Javakhishvili says she was the only biology teacher at the public school in the village Nikozi near Gori. She was fired only because she held different views; her husband participated in the local elections in 2010, representing the Free Democrats. The official reason for her firing was lack of experience. But it later emerged that the headmaster directly told her she had to leave her job because of the political views of her husband, because ‘he didn’t need an oppositional [person] at school.’ More…