Democracy Research Institute, a local watchdog, said Georgian political parties are manipulating the support of the Orthodox clergy ahead of the October 2 local polls, particularly highlighting Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s trips to cathedrals and the presence of clergymen at Georgian Dream’s campaign meetings.
Citing posts published on the Facebook pages of PM Irakli Garibashvili and the Government of Georgia, the watchdog pointed out that clergymen attended Georgian Dream’s candidate presentations for the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, as well as for Borjomi, Adigeni, Akhaltsikhe, Aspindze, Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities of the Samtskhe-Javakheti region.
As part of the campaign, PM Garibashvili, hosted by senior clergymen, has since September 10 visited Gergeti Trinity Church in Stepantsminda, Mother of God Cathedral in Atskuri, Saint Panteleimon Monastery in Abastumani, and Easter Cathedral in Gori, currently under construction.
The watchdog stressed that at the Monastery in Abastumani, PM Garibashvili had pointed out that restoration of the complex had been launched in 2018 with the initiative and the financial support of Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgian Dream party’s founder.
Like the GD, ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party “has been manipulating the support of the clergy in order to gain the support of voters,” the DRI noted.
The watchdog highlighted that Gakharia’s party presented its proportional list and majoritarian candidates in the yard of the Metekhi Church in Tbilisi on September 1, while eight days later Gakharia’s meeting with voters of Ghebi village of Oni Municipality was attended by clergymen.
The DRI said that Lelo for Georgia’s Badri Japaridze cited the Old Testament in a pre-election campaign video, while its footage included photos of Mtskheta and Jvari Monasteries.
As per the report, the Kremlin-friendly Alliance of Patriots posted a video on September 7 where priest Ilia Esaratia endorsed the party for the elections.
Georgia’s Election Code prohibits religious organizations from participating in pre-election agitation.