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Influence of the Occupation Regime upon the Pre-election Process

30.09.2020

Lado Bichashvili, Shida Kartli

The pre-election campaign for the Parliamentary Elections of 2020 in Shida Kartli region is mostly proceeding in peaceful manner; however the occupation regime is disturbing this quietness.  There are currently three active zones of creeping occupation in the region: Karapila, Nikozi and Atotsi. Occupation forces near these villages are resuming illegal borderization. 

In addition to the protest against the creeping occupation, there is a demand to release Georgian citizens Zaza Gakheladze and Genadi Bestaev, who for several months are in illegal custody in the pretrial detention center of Tskhinvali. Another abducted individual Khvicha Mgebrishvili was released by the occupation regime a few days ago. 

In order to explore what is the impact of the creeping occupation and of the factor that two Georgian citizens are still in custody in the pretrial detention center of Tskhinvali on the election process, humanrights.ge contacted the representatives of political parties.

“Russia is trying to influence the election process with its aggression and some other means. The occupation regime is tightening its control over the occupation line, thereby restricting our citizens from the right to vote. The persons who have been abducted are being deprived of the right to vote even more severely. Citizens living along the occupation line have nihilistic attitudes, for they do not feel being protected as neither the current nor the previous government was able to solve their problems. “We shall definitely bring our opinion regarding the ways of solving the problems of the citizens living near the occupation line to the new Parliament when it would convene" says Lizi Kazishvili, chairperson of the Gori branch of Free Democrats.

During the election campaign, members of the opposition political parties often visit the villages near the occupation line, and meet the family members of the abducted citizens and demand the government to take effective steps to free them. At the same time, the majoritarian MP candidate of the government is continuing his election campaign in a quiet atmosphere, as he has not arrived to the villages near the occupation line where the occupation is active, nor has he met the family members of the abducted individuals. 

Gigi Khojevanishvili, the majoritarian candidate of Georgian Dream - Democratic Georgia, says at the pre-election meetings that peace is the main achievement of the government. “One of the main achievements of the current government is the peace," Khojevanishvili said during the pre-election meetings with the inhabitants of the villages.

Unlike the candidate of the ruling party, the candidates of the opposition parties have difficulties in moving within the villages near the occupation line. According to Badri Basishvili, the candidate of United National Movement, they have to conduct the pre-election campaign on unequal terms.

“In the pre-election period, the government creates artificial barriers for us to enter the villages near the occupation line and to conduct election campaigns there. My staff members were not allowed for 2 hours to enter village Nikozi. Further, they did not let us to bring campaign materials to village Khurvaleti. As a reason for this, we were told we should have consent from the analytical department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. However, the representatives of the ruling party enter the villages without any problems. In the villages near the occupation line, the government seeds a kind of fear and the population avoids to voice up the problems in public. “Representatives of non-governmental organizations and the media also face problems in visiting the villages along the occupation line, like the case was with the opposition," says Badri Basishvili.

According to Papuna Koberidze, the majoritarian MP candidate of Lelo, the restrictions imposed against the representatives of the opposition during the pre-election campaign have a specific purpose. According to Koberidze, firstly the population would not be able to be familiarized with the election programs of the opposition, and the problems the government could not solve for 8 years would not be disclosed.

“The government has left the population of the villages near the occupation line alone with the daily problems, and further no security measures are in place.  “We have a plan to place the villages near the occupation line under particular measures of care and to install cameras along the occupation line, so that the population would be more protected from the representatives of the occupation regime; it would prevent provocative actions of the occupants like detaining individuals and relocating the dividing line." .

Humanrights.ge sought to hear a position of Gigi Ivanishvili, the majoritarian candidate of the ruling party with regard the statements of  his  opponents, but Ivanishvili refused to talk about these issues.

The article was prepared in the frame of the project “Monitoring 2020 Parliamentary Elections in Georgia”, which is supported by the Open Society Georgia Foundation. The contents of the article are the sole responsibility of the Human Rights Center and do not necessarily reflect the views of the donor. 

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