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Monitoring the Pre-Election Environment of 2020 Parliamentary Elections Second Interim Report

30.10.2020

 

Introduction 

Human Rights Center, with the support of Open Society Georgia Foundation, carries out pre-election, election day and post-election period monitoring of October 31, 2020 Parliamentary Elections from September 1, 2020 until the end of November 2020. The Interim Report of the Pre-Election Monitoring reflects the results of the monitoring conducted by HRC during the reporting period, in particular, the identified violations or cases that impede a fair, equal and competitive pre-election environment. Monitoring was carried out in the following regions: In Kvemo Kartli: villages inhabited by ethnic minorities, in Gardabani, Marneuli and Bolnisi municipalities; and in the Shida Kartli region: in the conflict adjacent villages of Gori, Khashuri and Kareli municipalities. 

Facts of threats and acts of violence identified as a result of monitoring

During the monitoring of the pre-election environment of 2020 Parliamentary Elections, a number of violent incidents were identified by HRC. Such fact became particularly alarming during the September and October with clashes in Bolnisi and Marneuli injuring some of the members of political parties, activists / citizens, and representatives of the media and observer organisations. Of particular concern is the involvement of public figures in such incidents.

1. Confrontation in Dmanisi 
 
On September 21, 2020, several people were wounded as a result of the conflict and shootings near the local office of the Georgian Dream. According to TV Company Mtavari Arkhi, the activists of ruling groups attacked each other with firearms at the campaign office of the Georgian Dream. One of the participants in the arguments was Zurab Okmelashvili, who is a figure within a criminal world, wounding three members of the campaign office with a firearm.  Gogi Meshveliani, the majoritarian candidate for the Georgian Dream from Bolnisi, Dmanisi, Tetritskaro and Tsalka constituencies, identifies the signature of the National Movement in the incident and says that the opposition wishes to do more harm to the election process and create an illusion of an illegitimate election environment. 
 
In connection with the above incident, the investigation began under Article 117 of the Criminal Code of Georgia (intentional severe damage to health) and Article 236 (illegal purchase and storage of firearms) . 
 
2. Attack on the activists of the European Georgia 
 
On September 28, 2020, in village Sadakhlo of Marneuli, one of the activists of the European Georgia was allegedly shot with a wind gun. The incident took place when an activist was placing  an election banner in the village. 
 
An investigation has been launched in the incident under article 120 of the Criminal Code, envisaging an intentional minor damage to health. 

3, Confrontation in Bolnisi between Georgian Dream and United National Movement 
 
On September 27, 2020, according to the United Opposition, the brother of Gogi Meshveliani, of the majoritarian MP candidate for the Georgian Dream, broke into a tea parlour with dozens of supporters, attacking the opposition activists and physically assaulting them. Several activists suffered bodily injuries. Representatives of the Georgian Dream deny the allegations and accuse the opposition instead in instigations and physically attacking their supporters. The conflict continued also the next day in Bolnisi, when stones and bottles were thrown in protest at the cars moving in convoy from Tbilisi damaging one of the cars.
 
An investigation has been launched into the incident under the Article 126(11)(b) of the Criminal Code of Georgia envisaging violent acts committed by a group of persons..
 
Furthermore, on October 4, 2020, the prosecutor’s office charged Arif Yusupov, a supporter of the United National Movement and the United Opposition, with a violence action remanding him on bail of GEL 4000 the next day.
 
It is worth to mention that during the events in Nakhiduri and Dmanisi, several media outlets were spreading in parallel mutually exclusive reports when covering the story. Regarding the physical confrontations taking place during the pre-election period, HRC released a special Appeal along with the recommendations emphasizing the particular aspect of the problem.

4, Confrontation in Marneuli between Georgian Dream and United National Movement

On September 29, 2020, there were clashes of the supporters of the United National Movement and the Georgian Dream.  The incident was caused by the issue of staffing the district election commissions. 

On the same evening, according to the available information, Lasha Kveladze, a supporter of the National Movement and a member to the district election commission, along with three other persons was attacked. Physical assaults were also suffered by reporting crews of the Mtavari Arkhi and the Public Broadcaster and by Giorgi Mumladze, a representative of the monitoring organization Platform 2020. Jeyhun Muhammad Ali, a reporter of the Mtavari Arkhi was hospitalized with injuries. The equipments of the reporters were also damaged. 

It should be noted that Jeyhun Muhammad Ali was also threatened and verbally abused in Bolnisi, where on September 16, Vugar Isayev, a member to City Council for the  Georgian Dream, allegedly threatened the reporter with a knife when the reporter was performing his professional duties. 

In connection with the above-mentioned incident, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has launched an investigation into the facts of damage to health and interfering with journalistic activities. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, two people were arrested in connection with the incident on charges of violence. The investigation revealed that on September 29, in the evening, they verbally and physically assaulted the activists of National Movement: Givi and Lasha Kveladzes.

5. Attack on a representative of the United Opposition

On October 1, 2020, unknown individuals damaged with stones the advertising van of Kakha Okriashvili, the candidate for United Opposition from Bolnisi majoritarian constituency, and on September 23, 2020, they attacked the campaign office of Okriashvili. Some posters were torn down from Okriashvili's campaign office, further some video cameras were damaged and insulting words were written on the walls. Members of the opposition blame in this Gogi Meshveliani, the majoritarian MP candidate for Georgian Dream and his brother.

According to reports, the scene was under investigation until late that night, further, the surveillance camera recordings were seized, however, so far, none of the assailants has been arrested.

6. Attack on the representative of the European Georgia

On October 11, 2020, Okta Iskandarov, a member of European Georgia, was reportedly attacked in village Karajala of Gardabani district. According to Iskandarov, Georgian Dream activists attacked him. 

An investigation is on in the incident under article 126 of the Criminal Code, envisaging battery or other form of violence.

The fact of interference with the pre-election campaign  of a party

7. Violent incident in Akhalubani

On October 16, 2020, some local residents broke up the meeting of Levan Tarkhnishvili the majoritarian candidate of European Georgia from Gori and Kaspi constituencies was holding with local population in village Akhalubani. According to Tarkhnishvili, the instigators were supporters of the ruling party. Tarkhnishvili claims that about six people interfered in the pre-election campaign and instigated them. The confrontation in village Akhalubani took place when Eter Jalaghania, chairwoman of the local branch of European Georgia, tried to use her cell phone for taking a photo of the fact that a poster of Giorgi Khojevanishvili, a  candidate from Georgian Dream, was placed over a poster of Levan Tarkhnishvili. 

Human Rights Center appeals:
  • To the authorities and investigative bodies: 
- To investigate in a timely and effective manner, the facts of pressure and threats against the representatives of political parties, their activists and supporters, as well as the facts of interference with the campaign of political parties. 
- To investigate promptly and effectively the facts of violence against journalists and interference with journalistic activities.
  • To political parties: 
- Not to allow pressure, threats and violence against the candidates and supporters of the opposing political parties; 
- Pre-election campaign and related activities should be carried out in a peaceful  manner within the framework established by the law. 
- On the polling day, to refrain from any violent actions and to respect the requirements of the law so the elections are held in a peaceful and fair environment.
  • To media outlets: 
- To fulfill the responsibility taken before the public in good faith and to ensure balanced, non-discriminatory and pluralistic coverage of all facts or views in news programs. 
- When reporting facts, to refrain from arbitrarily manipulating information, which is even more important when the Georgian media environment is extremely polarized and part of the TV media is favoring particular political force as evidenced from the editorial policies of the media. 

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