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DRI: Participation of Religious Organizations and Specific Clergy in Pre-Election Campaign is Noticeable
30.10.2020

The Democracy Research Institute has been monitoring the participation of religious organizations and clergy in the pre-election campaign since October 15, 2020[1]. However, due to the importance of the issue, the monitoring results are also based on the facts that occurred before October 15.

Observation revealed that on the one hand, the electoral subjects are trying to use the Orthodox Church and the clergy in the pre-election agitation to gain the trust of the voters and to achieve the desired result in the elections. On the other hand, there have been direct calls from high-ranking clerics for (or against) the electoral subjects, as well as actions that could affect the free will of the voters.

According to the Constitution of Georgia, elections shall be based on the principles of universality, secrecy, equality and freedom. The voter must make his/her decision, which political power to entrust to run the country for the next four years, only on the basis of internal beliefs. The Election Code of Georgia prohibits religious organizations from conducting and participating in pre-election agitation. The restriction does not apply to clergy. However, due to the authority of religious organizations, agitation by a clergyman may have an impact on the formation of the will of the voters.

From September 1 to October 29, 2020, the clergies attended the nomination of majoritarian candidates of the Georgian Dream party in eight cases. The clergymen also attended the nomination of the majoritarian MPs of the party "Georgian Idea". From October 1 to October 29, according to the observation of the organization, at least eight cases of pre-election agitation by the clergy were published on the social network and covered by the media. According to the Democracy Research Institute, in about 15 cases, there were cases when electoral subject have attempted to use religious organizations and specific clerics, presumably to influence the will of voters.

In order to ensure fair elections, it is essential that religious organizations and specific clergy refrain from engaging in pre-election campaigns and activities that may affect the free will of the voters.

The monitoring was made possible in the framework of The East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) project, funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of the document are the sole responsibility of the Democracy Research Institute and do not necessarily reflect the views of EWMI, USAID and/or the United States Government.

 

[1] The monitoring is limited only to those cases of clergy’s participation in agitation, which have been in the center of attention of the media. Accordingly, the statistics in the report are illustrative.

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