Former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia, European Georgia and right-libertarian Girchi – More Freedom parties have accused the law enforcement/security agencies of pressuring their candidates into dropping out of election races ahead of the October 2 local polls.
Natia Mezvrishvili, For Georgia’s Gldani district majoritarian hopeful, said on September 4 dozens of their candidates have already withdrawn due to fears of “dismissals,” “pressuring businesses” and “disclosure of personal information.” These people were then coerced into spreading “false” information via pro-government media, she added.
Mezvrishvili said For Georgia’s candidates from ethnic Armenian-majority Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities, candidates from ethnic Azeri majority villages of Kabali and Karajala of Lagodekhi and Telavi municipalities, respectively, as well as and candidates from Adigeni and Ozurgeti municipalities were affected from such pressure.
She cited the case of Kabali majoritarian candidate Mahman Mamedov, allegedly threatened by the authorities to drop out, as well as Ninotsminda municipality Heshtia village candidate Ovanes Ovsepyan, whose wife was allegedly threatened with losing her classes at the public school.
Girchi- More Freedom leader Zurab Japaridze has also expressed his concerns on September 4, regarding what he called an unprecedented pressure facing their party candidates and supporters.
According to MP Japaridze, law enforcement officers are contacting each registered candidate demanding them to withdraw from elections, “otherwise they would have problems.” Five of them cancelled their candidacy, he alleged.
Japaridze recalled that there is a minimum number of candidates needed in the proportional lists otherwise the latter will be cancelled and “therefore, opposition votes will be lost.”
Also, European Georgia’s Gigi Tsereteli said yesterday Rusudan Kovziridze, their majoritarian candidate in western Terjola Municipality’s Ghvankiti constituency, employed in a local Youth Center, is facing political pressure from the government. More here
The Office of the Public Defender and The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), a key election watchdog, have both voiced similar concerns during the previous week, addressing alleged discriminatory dismissal based on political affiliation.
Responding to Mezvrishvili today, Georgian Dream lawmaker Giorgi Khelashvili slammed the allegations as “disinformation,” asserting that “as soon as former PM Gakharia’s party sensed imminent and complete defeat in the upcoming local elections, its members have taken on, alas, well-trodden path of lies and deceit to discredit the pre-election process.”