Nine electoral subjects registered for the October 28 presidential elections raised GEL 1,277,515 (USD 485,767) in monetary and non-monetary donations in the period from September 12 through October 2, according to the State Audit Office, an independent body in charge of the political finance monitoring.
According to the State Audit Office, 85% (GEL 1,087,283) of total donations was received by the ruling party party-endorsed candidate, Salome Zurabishvili, with opposition European Georgia lagging far behind with GEL 108,369 and the United National Movement with GEL 56,265.
During the same period, Free Democrats (Davit Usupashvili was formally nominated by the Free Democrats party) raised GEL 7,240; Besarion Tediashvili, independent presidential candidate – GEL 3,000; Free Georgia – GEL 1,550; Vladimer Nonikashvili, independent presidential candidate – GEL 700; New Political Center Girchi – GEL 89.
Besides donations, the so-called “qualified electoral subjects” – i.e. the parties that have crossed the 3% threshold in the last general elections or have won at least one majoritarian seat and established a faction in the Parliament (minimum six MPs required), and are thus entitled to state support in campaigning – were also funded from the state coffers.
According to the State Audit Office, 16 political subjects received a total of GEL 495,460 through this facility. The European Georgia party is leading the list with GEL 86,344, followed by the United National Movement with GEL 82,644; Free Democrats – GEL 42,683; Labor Party – 39,401; State for the People and New Georgia – GEL 16,293 each; Free Georgia – GEL 7,252.
Watchdogs flag suspicious donations for Zurabishvili
Some of these were flagged by NGO watchdogs as suspicious, including several larger donations from the medical staff and administration of the Tbilisi-based Chachava and Gudushauri Maternity Clinics, equaling tens of thousands of Lari each.
One of the doctors, whose names appear in the donor list, Nikoloz Kintraia of the Chachava Clinic, wrote on his Facebook page that he would not vote for Salome Zurabishvili; this post was later deleted. Paliko Kintraia, chairman of the Chachava Clinic’s Supervisory Board, said he does not know Salome Zurabishvili personally, but transferred money of his own volition.
These statements gave rise to suspicions that the accounts of doctors could have been used for channeling illegal donations, notably since, Elguja Gotsiridze, GDDG majoritarian MP from Tkibuli-Terjola constituency, is one of the shareholders of the Chachava Clinic and a consultant at the Gudushauri Clinic. Gotsiridze, however, strongly ruled out his involvement.
Commenting on the issue, Eka Gigauri of the Transparency International Georgia said donating on behalf of other persons represented a violation of the election code and a felony punishable by fine double the amount of the donation. The Audit Office said it would inquire into the issue.
Bank loan for Zurabishvili
According to the State Audit Office, on October 1, Salome Zurabishvili received a loan worth GEL 1 million from Cartu Bank, owned by GDDG chair Bidzina Ivanishvili. The document released by the State Audit Office does not contain information about the terms of the loan, its due payment date or interest rates.
Irma Pavliashvili of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, another watchdog, said that if the loan has preferential terms, it may be considered an illegal donation. The Audit Office told Civil.Ge today that it had already addressed Zurabishvili’s for loan details.