Date: 2020-10-27
Period: 2020 Parliamentary elections - Pre-election period
District: Georgia
Incident Category: Damaging campaign materials
Campaign Materials are damaged practically everywhere. Posters of both the opposition and the ruling party are damaged. Usually, in such cases it is difficult to identify perpetrators. Therefore, many of them remain unpunished.
According to the head of the Lelo for Georgia campaign office in Gurjaani, Giorgi Edisherashvili, on October 13, late at night, he saw a group of three men, who were damaging campaign materials of opposition candidates. Among them, he was able to identify a manager of the technical group at Gurjaani Culture House, Sergo Shakhnazarov. Edisherashvili turned on his camera and was trying to record their faces but they ran away. The following day, in the same area, Shakhnazarov was trying to cover damaged posters of Lelo with GD posters. According to Giorgi Edisherashvili, the group is led by the head of the Culture House, Valeri Shoshiashvili. The latter denied his involvement in the incident.
GD campaign office manager, Leri Gelenava told ISFED observer that he knew nothing about the incident and that he condemns any such behavior. He said he is warning everyone that perpetrators of such actions will be held responsible strictly. The observer spoke with Sergo Shakhnazarov as well, who denied the allegation and explained that he may have passed the place where strangers were committing such acts. He was seen there, so he was mistakenly assumed to be the perpetrator.
Notably, in many districts, places allocated for campaign material placement are mostly occupied by the Georgian Dream – for example, in Borjomi. In Shuakhevi, there are so many posters of the European Georgia and the Georgian Dream that there is barely any place for other parties. According to the Labor Party, at this stage, there is no place for their campaign materials in areas designated by municipal authorities in Akhmeta for placement of campaign materials. Similar concerns were raised by local organization the Lelo for Georgia in Lagodekhi.
In Nadzaladevi, according to majoritarian candidate of the Davit Chichinadze Tribune – CDM party, Lia Mukhashavria, areas designated for placement of campaign materials are currently fully occupied by parties that already had their numbers set and more financial resources. Mukhashavria added that they managed to print and place their campaign posters before other parties and occupied the entire designated area, not just part of the area where placement of campaign materials is allowed. They did not leave any place for other parties that had not yet received their numbers and had not raised finances for printing the campaign materials. According to her, quotas should be introduced and the number of posters that can be placed should be limited, in order to establish equal conditions for all parties.
The opposition has similar concerns about other districts, including in Terjola and in Kutaisi.
Often, posters of political subjects are placed in non-designated or in prohibited areas. In Tkibuli, campaign material of majoritarian candidates that represent different parties have been placed on the "honorary board” in the center of the city. Under the Assembly Order N48 55, dated 31 August 2020, the former "honorary board” – the area outside the house at 1 Rustaveli Street – is included on the list of places were placement of campaign materials is prohibited.
In Khashuri, according to the Lelo for Georgia majoritarian candidate, Kakha Kozhoridze even though he was the first to apply to Alma representatives for a billboard space, they said no and later, a poster of the GD candidate, Zaal Dugladze was placed on the very same billboard.
In addition, campaign materials of competing parties and candidates are often covered with materials of other parties/candidates. In most cases, the incidents go unpunished. For example, in Khashuri, the Lelo for Georgia candidate Kakha Kozhoridze’s posters were covered with Zaza Dugladze’s campaign materials. They reported the incident to the police, but the process continued. Often, they do not apply to the police at all, because it is difficult to identify the perpetrator.
According to party representatives, campaign materials are mostly damaged by minors, sometimes based on the instructions of adults. In Zestaponi, a child aged 10-11 removed a campaign poster of Gigi Tsereteli. The candidate called him and asked why he did it. The child responded: "they told me to remove it and place it there.”
Opposition representatives are concerned with unequal, selective approaches by local authorities. In Akhaltsikhe, posters of the Alliance of Patriots were placed on trees and electricity posts, as well as bus stops. Strategy Agmashenebeli placed posters in this area as well. Mayoral representative fined Strategy Agmashenebeli with 50 laris for placing the posters. Representative of the party, Ketevan Kurtanidze believes that this is a selective justice, considering that her party 
was the only one fined and the Mayor’s Office did not react to placement of posters by the Alliance of Patriots.
According to the Labor Party majoritarian candidate for Tbilisi Sakrebulo, Mamuka Jugeli, they were not allowed to place posters outside the Office of the General Prosecutor, on electricity posts. The authorities said it was prohibited by law. However, the party activists found posters of the GD majoritarian candidate near this territory, on electricity posts. They called the police, which said that a report has already been filed about it and relevant services of the Mayor’s Office would take further action. However, according to Mamuka Jugeli, the posters have not been removed yet.
The supervision service fined the UNM and the European Georgia for placing campaign posters at the central stadium of Kobuleti. UNM member Mamuka Komakhidze told ISFED representative that before campaign posters of the UNM were placed, posters of the Georgian Dream and other parties had already been placed. In an interview with ISFED observer, head of the Kobuleti supervision service, Mindia Romanadze confirmed that the party has been fined. According to him, they did not see GD posters when they arrived at the scene.