Chief prosecutor’s office said on June 6, that investigation had been launched into alleged voter bribery by Bidzina Ivanishvili-led opposition coalition Georgian Dream, which has denied the allegation as authorities’ “dirty plot”.
The chief prosecutor’s office announcement came shortly after the State Audit Service, which is also in charge of monitoring of political finances, said on June 6 that media reports a day earlier that activists from Georgian Dream were offering voters in Kutaisi valuable gifts constituted a criminal offense.
Tbilisi-based nationwide broadcaster, Rustavi 2 TV, reported on June 5 that ahead of planned campaign rally in Kutaisi on June 10, Georgian Dream activists were distributing flyers in the city and also offering citizens to write down their dreams on one part of flyers, promising them various home appliances worth of no more than GEL 1,000. Several activists, young men in Georgian Dream t-shirts, told Rustavi 2 TV that the Georgian Dream would make those “dreams” come true before the elections and donate supporters’ those gifts, which they would write on flyers.
“Because this action contains elements of crime, in particular involving vote-buying, investigation has been launched” by the Interior Ministry’s local unit in Imereti region and supervised by the prosecutor’s office, reads the statement from the chief prosecutor’s office. “Freedom of expression and the right to political activity are guaranteed by Georgian legislation. The investigation aims at preventing criminalization of electoral processes and ensuring respect of the rights of individuals and political parties.”
The Georgian Dream said that young men shown in the Rustavi 2 TV’s report were its volunteer activists, but suggested that those activists were either now acting upon instructions of the authorities or were misled. A spokesperson for the Georgian Dream, Maia Panjikidze, told reporters that the Georgian Dream senior representatives had stated for multiple times in the past that flyers served as an invitation card for the campaign rally in Kutaisi and one part of its was designed for writing down citizens’ “dream”, which aimed at surveying supporters about their expectations.
Panjikidze said that allegation about vote-buying was “a provocation” staged jointly by the government-controlled Rustavi 2 TV and the authorities.
“This is a dirty operation plotted by the authorities, which has nothing to do with Georgian Dream’s activities and plans. We do promise people to make their dreams come true, but not through distributing gifts before the elections, but through establishing justice, overcoming poverty and resolving social issues… after winning the elections. We distance ourselves from anyone who tries to mislead population… and misuses our invitation cards,” she said.
A similar practice of collecting citizens’ “dreams” was employed by the Georgian Dream during its large scale campaign rally in Tbilisi on May 27, when demonstrators were writing their “dreams” on Georgian Dream flyers giving them back to activists. Few hours before the launch of that rally in Tbilisi on May 27, the Georgian Dream released a statement warning its supporters about possible “provocations” from the authorities, involving offering money on behalf of the Georgian Dream in exchange for attending the rally. In that statement the Georgian Dream called on supporters not to engage in any such “deal” and to immediately inform about it the Georgian Dream representatives.