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Free Food Before Elections from CDM

August 1, 2012

On July 31, leaders of the Christian-Democrat Movement met their supporters brought by mini-buses from various districts of Kakheti region at the Memorial to Great Patriotic War in Gurjaani. After the meeting, the CDM served the gathered people with barbecue, cucumbers, tomatoes, bread and wine.

Tables were prepared for about one thousand persons in the Memorial area though more than thousand people were gathered. Part of them could not reach table and got dissatisfied. Discontent people entered the Memorial Museum and took wine, bread and salt away.

Levan Vepkhvadze, a leader of the CDM, told ICK that people had organized feast with their expenses.

“People arrived here with their food and it is joint feast. The party has not spent money on it. The meeting was well-organized because we coordinated process. Some of them intended to bring Khachapuri, others wanted to take cheese but finally we agreed that everybody would bring meat and we roasted it on the place. So, everything was nicely organized,” Levan Vepkhvadze said.

ICK interviewed more than 20 people gathered at the Memorial. None of them confirmed information about having collected money. They said the party leaders had invited them to the table and served them for free.

“I did not know if they intended to serve us with Mtsvadi [barbecue]; I was surprised with their generosity; Christian-Democrats invited us to the feast,” one of CDM supporters said.

“I definitely know that people had not collected money. My sister is member of the CDM and I know that they organized the feast for people,” another supporter said.

ICK asked expert of election issues Nina Khatiskatsi to evaluate the fact. “Any service provided to voters by any political party, including serving them with food, is bribery of voters. The gathered people, if they received a service of about 100 lari, might be punished under administrative law but the party which provided them with the service, has committed criminal offence and the action is fined or punished by imprisonment up to 3 years,” Khatiskatsi said.

Lawyer Irine Urushadze of the Transparency International – Georgia said on July 31 Christian-Democrat Movement bribed voters by inviting population to the party in Gurjaani.

“Law about Political Unions of Citizens prohibits any party to provide voters with any service or goods. In this particular case, we observed this kind violation. Representatives of the Christian-Democrat Movement offered voters a service, that was organization of a feast and serving them with food. This action is prohibited by the law about political unions and criminal code of Georgia which punishes direct or indirect transfer of any good for election purpose with imprisonment or fine. We believe this particular case was example of this violation because the good was transferred for election purpose as the party members served voters in the frame of pre-election campaign; consequently, we can detect signs of voters’ bribery in this action. The law envisages analogue punishment for population which accepts service but no similar fact has been observed in practice yet,” Irine Urushadze told ICK.