Probe into Alleged Election Fraud Launched, as CSOs Voice Whistleblower’s Allegations
In a statement released on November 20, the Georgian Prosecutor’s office said that it has launched investigation into alleged printing of fake IDs, with a purpose of rigging the second round of elections on November 28, under article 362 of the criminal code, involving making of a forged document. Prosecution says all persons linked to the case will be interrogated in the near future.
The statement comes after three watchdogs – the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy and Transparency International Georgia have voiced the allegations from an unnamed whistle-blower from the Public Service Development Agency (PSDA), that the Head of PSDA, Soso Giorgadze, and the Head of the Internal Audit of PSDA, Bezhan Obgaidze, have instructed the regional offices of the Agency to illegally issue up to five IDs to specific individuals, thus allowing them to vote multiple times in favor of Salome Zurabishvili, the ruling party-endorsed presidential candidate.
The whistleblower, according to watchdogs, has claimed this was an instruction that went to all field offices of the Agency, where the “untrustworthy” officials have been sent away to ‘business trips’, to be replaced by more politically malleable cadre.
According to the watchdogs, if proven true, these criminal offenses “could irreparably damage the election environment and challenge the legitimacy of the elections.”
PSDA Chief to Sue Watchdogs
In response to the allegations, Soso Giorgadze, Head of the PSDA convened a special briefing and said he would sue the watchdogs for slanderous allegation damaging his and the Agency’s business reputation. He promised to fully cooperate with investigation.
Giorgadze said the watchdog statement was based on “absurd arguments” invented and said the suggested scheme was even “theoretically unimaginable.”
“I hope that these organizations will provide particular facts based on which they have made such slanderous statements against the organization, which has made a huge contribution to recent reforms implemented in Georgia, including in terms of visa liberalisation,” Soso Giorgadze said.
Grigol Vashadze, the runoff contestant from the opposition UNM-led coalition, said that the government is preparing for “an unprecedented ballot rigging.”
“Bidzina Ivanishvili and his criminal group are not satisfied with intimidating, blackmailing, violence, voter-bribing and have now resorted to an unprecedented crime – large scale rigging of IDs,” he said, adding that “the so called government has actually lost the presidential elections.” He called on local and international organizations, as well as political parties to react to “this grave offence.”
MP Sergi Kapanadze of the opposition European Georgia party said that the government is “in hysteria, it spares no efforts and uses all tools at its disposal to win the second round runoffs.” “I call on the government not to take this illegal step and not to violate the Georgian citizens’ right to express a free will and to vote,” he said.
The ruling party denied accusations as “unimaginable.” “We suppose that the investigative bodies should immediately launch probe to clarify all details and remove all question marks,” GDDG MP, Mamuka Mdinaradze said.
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