Russian Watchdog’s Second Report on Moscow’s Meddling in Georgian Elections

Dossier Center, a Russian investigative project established by Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, released the second report revealing planned campaign activities by the Alliance of Patriots (AoP), a nativist Kremlin-friendly opposition party of Georgia.

In its previous report published on August 24, Dossier accused the party of being aided by the Kremlin for the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for October 31.

Dossier Center said it based its investigations on documents lifted from Chernov’s secretariat, including working documents, analytical reports, financial estimates, election manuals, and operational reports.

New Leaks, Abkhazia Excuses

The new leaks include pre-drafted instructions for the party’s response to the outcry over the controversial Abkhazia visit, the strategy of elections campaign, working plans, ‘agitator’s memo’ etc.

According to the watchdog, the Russians have allegedly drafted public excuses for party leaders MP Irma Inashvili and MP Giorgi Lomia on August 18 Abkhazia visit, which resulted in the resignation of Abkhaz leader’s aide Lasha Sakania.

The “theses” retrieved from Chernov’s Directorate, according to Dossier, include the following instructions:

  • The visit had charity purposes – to donate the Virgin Mary icon – but party leaders also took the opportunity to visit their relatives;
  • The surveys conducted by the AoP party show 70% of Georgians are in favor of “resumption of a direct dialogue with Sokhumi, Tskhinvali and Moscow.” Thus, establishing direct contacts and acting under “public diplomacy” reflect people’s will;
  • Those who are vocal against “public diplomacy” are the real traitors who want to benefit from war and get rich by trading arms and “lives of our citizens”;
  • To prevent another war, ‘Patriots’ proposes the concept of Georgian neutrality – military non-alignment to either of the parties. This must be enshrined in the constitution.
  • Contacts through solely official channels haven’t borne any fruits over the last 8 years.

Campaigning Tips and Scheduled Activities

According to the retrieved “agitator’s memo”, Patriots position themselves in the following way:

  • Authorities “don’t hear people”, and the AoP can deliver the public opinion to the leadership;
  • To restore justice, the ‘Patriots’ will need a parliamentary majority;
  • The ‘Patriots’ are a real alternative to current authorities, with experiences in both national and municipal representative bodies.

The leaked documents also highlight that, unlike the previous and current governments who reckon the interests of foreign powers, ‘Patriots’ declare that it is the national interests of Georgia that need to be defended.

The report says that Russia aids ‘Patriots’ in planning and organizing a set of campaign events, including:

  • End of August-early September: Indefinite blockade of the Parliament’s building by residents of Adjara region with the participation of tourism and service workers, business owners, civil society organizations, etc., led by a local force, e.g. “Muslim and Christian Brothers for Georgian Unity”;
  • Charity event to provide school supplies to children from poor families, funded by local funds and businessmen – if authorized by law.
  • September 8: conference on the International Day of Journalists Solidarity
  • Legislative proposal to open polling stations abroad, including in Russia, to allow “all Georgians” outside the country to vote in their area of residence.
  • August 28, Day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Georgia: donate an icon to any of the well-known Georgian monasteries. Additionally, pass a present from a Georgian church in Moscow and arrange a return gift from Georgian clerics to the church in Moscow. After that, organize a press conference on the role of Orthodox Christianity, and a subsequent blessing of the party leaders by clerics.

The events at the end of the list aim at demonstrating the commonalities in beliefs held by the Georgian Orthodox Church and the party/ its leaders, such as the need for rapprochement with Russia and Russians as “brothers in faith”, or conservation of traditional and religious values.

This, in turn, must help win over religious voters, including those who have been supporting the ruling party or the opposition before.

Of Unhappy Political Strategists and “Patriot” Celebrities

As evident from a leaked correspondence between the AoP staff and Blashenkova from POLITSECRETS’, Russian campaigners are dissatisfied with the party’s low campaigning efforts and their slow actions, quoting Blashenkova as saying that the party cannot even pass a 10% threshold in elections on such pace and that AoP’s current ratings hardly achieve 5%.

A number of online campaign activities have also been planned, including attracting young bloggers to report on party’s meetings, organizing patriotic song contest, and an online video flash-mob with celebrities endorsing the Patriots. Some of the listed public personas include:

  • Zurab Mzhavia, composer
  • Jemal Sepiashvili, composer
  • Temur Tatarashvili, singer
  • Irma Nioradze, ballerina
  • Nino Salukvadze, sports shooter and triple Olympics medal-winner
  • David Okitashvili, former Chair of Culture Chamber
  • Nana Devdariani, former Public Defender
  • Vakhtang Kolbaia, former Chairman of Government of Abkhazia

According to the correspondence, Russian campaigners have also requested data from Georgian voters – a so-called “passportization”, containing, at least, their addresses and the number of entrances and floors in each house. The AoP allegedly promised to submit data, expressing, however, their confusion over Russians’ interest in the numbers of floors and entrances.

Earlier Developments

Allegations from August 24 sparked outrage among Georgian opposition parties. MP Elene Khoshtaria, leader of the European Georgia party, even filed a request to the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia on August 25, demanding an investigation.

Days later, on August 31, Khoshtaria said the Prosecutor’s Office refused to launch an investigation and referred the case to the Audit’s Office.

Denying allegations, MP Inashvili slammed the previous report as “absurd.”

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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