Tbilisi Court Rejects NGO’s Motion to Ban Pro-Russian Party from Elections

TBILISI- The City Court of Tbilisi rejected a motion filed by NGO the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), which wanted the openly pro-Russian Centrists political party barred from registering for the upcoming parliamentary elections in October.

ISFED filed the motion after a pre-election advertisement from the Centrists featured a Russian flag, soldiers and a photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin, with a voiceover message that promised “Russian pensions, a dual citizenship law with Moscow and Russian military bases inside Georgia’s borders.”

According to ISFED, the advertisement violates the constitution and is a direct threat to Georgia’s national security.

ISFED is going to appeal the Court’s decision and also apply to the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) to ban the advertisement and fine the Centrists for anti-Georgian activities.

The opposition United National Movement party of former President Mikheil Saakashvili said in a statement that they support the ISFED and will jointly sign the motion that will be submitted to the Appeals Court.

Georgia’s Public Broadcaster has not re-aired the advertisement since the weekend and has called on the CEC to rule on the issue as quickly as possible.

“by a joint decision made by the management and employees, we (the Public Broadcaster) have suspended any future runs of the advertisement of Centrists campaign advertisement as we believe that it contains messages that threaten Georgia’s sovereignty and contradicts the Constitution,” the statement reads.

Opposition party, the Republicans, have also condemned the content of the Centrists’ advertisement, saying the message is a direct attempt to infringe upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia

Republican member Tamar Kordzaia said the party would also file a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court, accusing the Centrists of violating the Constitution.

“We will not allow anyone to put our unity in danger, or threaten the independence and Euro-Atlantic course of our country,” Kordzaia said as she also called upon the country’s other political parties to join their initiative.

A similar initiative was suggested by ruling Georgian Dream Chair Gia Volsky, who said his party’s parliamentarians, will testify before the Appeals Court to bar the Centrists from registering their candidates.

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said the government would not allow any Russian propaganda in the run-up to the October 8 parliamentary elections, adding that he welcomed the move by the Public Broadcaster to stop running the advertisement.

“The government will continue to use all available legal and democratic means to prevent anti-Georgian propaganda and welcomes the initiatives of the non-governmental and political sectors,” Kvirikashvili said.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili also welcomed the moves to ban the advertisement.

The Centrists have thus far refused to change their campaign ads and reject all accusations that they are attempting to promote Russian propaganda.

By Thea Morrison
Edited by Nicholas Waller

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