A day before a large-scale rally planned by Georgian Dream in Tbilisi on December 14 to mark Georgia’s presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, a group of local civil society organizations accused the ruling party of compelling public servants and citizens to participate in the rally.
In a joint statement released on December 13, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Transparency International Georgia, Georgian Democracy Initiative and Open Society Georgia Foundation noted that “in some municipalities, in addition to party coordinators, mayoral representatives in villages and members of Sakrebulos are actively involved in mobilization process.”
According to them, such facts were observed in Kutaisi, Tskaltubo, Zugdidi, Poti, Khobi, Martvili, Ozurgeti, Chokhatauri, Kobuleti, Batumi, Khelvachauri, Akhaltsikhe, Gori, Khashuri and Kakheti.
The CSOs said that “municipality representatives are going door to door, visiting public schools, kindergartens and urging public school teachers and kindergarten employees, employees of non-profit (non-commercial) legal entities and legal entities of public law to attend the rally organized by the authorities.”
“In some cases, people are ordered or requested to participate in the event. In addition, local self-government employees in some municipalities have been given a task to submit a list of 10 or 20 people who will be going to the rally, indicating their names, last names and personal numbers,” the statement reads.
The CSOs said that besides public servants, “individuals with the status of a socially vulnerable person in Zugdidi and Chokhatauri municipalities have been warned about going to the rally. In private conversations with ISFED representatives, they express their fear that unless they go to the rally, their social benefits will be canceled.”
The CSOs called on the ruling party and local self-government bodies “to stop all forms of harassment/coercion of public servants, municipal employees and socially vulnerable persons, in an attempt to force them to attend the rally. Additionally, they should draw a clear line between party events and activities of public service and local self-governments, and refrain from misleading citizens about the scheduled event.”
Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria also made a statement about coercion of public servants and citizens to participate in the rally, noting that “such actions contain the signs of a criminal offence.”
The Public Defender called on law enforcement agencies “to take appropriate steps and identify alleged responsible persons, the actions of which may include signs of a crime.”
Lomjaria also called on Georgian citizens “to request from the law enforcement agencies to appropriately respond to the alleged cases of coercion and pressure against them.”