DRI: The Patriarchate manipulates the authority of the Church in the run-up to the elections
The statement by the head of the public relations department of the Patriarchate, according to which, the church can directly tell the parishioners how to behave in the elections, is an attempt to manipulate the authority of the Church and contradicts legislation of Georgia.
The Election Code of Georgia prohibits religious organizations,
which implies the Georgian Patriarchate as well, from participating in the pre-election campaign.
The public statement by the head of the public relations department of the Patriarchate may, naturally, be perceived as the position of the organization.
Participation of priests in political events is prohibited not only by the Electoral Code. According to the decision of the Holy Synod (the highest deliberative body of the Church) of July 5, 2012, the Church shall represent a unifying, neutral force in the country. Consequently, participation of priests in the political events of any party during the pre-election period is not allowed.
According to the decision, it is clear that the highest deliberative body of the Church considers an archpriest’s statement to be an expression of the position of the Church.
However, observations by the Democracy Research Institute during the 2020 and 2021 pre-election periods showed that clerics did not refrain from participating in political processes or making political statements (which, in most cases, includes attendance at election events and/or making statements in support of or against certain political parties).
It is noteworthy that the rhetoric of the clergy changed after the disclosure of the secret records, according to which, the State Security Service conducts covert surveillance of almost all members of society, including the clergy of all ranks, allegedly without proper legal basis. After the information was made public, Andria Jagmaidze, head of the public relations department of the Patriarchate, said that they would directly tell the parishioners how to behave in the elections if the televisions covered the secret files in an undesirable format.
According to the Democracy Research Institute, such a call represents an attempt to manipulate a large part of society with power and authority and, in general, to neglect the autonomy of the will, which may lead to a restriction of the constitutionally guaranteed right (freedom of choice).
In order to ensure the protection of the constitutional right to vote, the Democracy Research Institute calls on the Georgian Patriarchate, its representatives and clergy of all levels to refrain from interfering in the political process in any form.
Election Code of Georgia, Article 45, paragraph 4, subparagraph g.
Resolution of the Parliament of Georgia on the Approval of the Constitutional Agreement between the State of Georgia and the Apostolic Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Georgia, Article 1.
Gtu.ge (website), Svetitskhoveli, Scientific Historical Journal, https://gtu.ge/Library/Pdf/sveticxoveli_2_2012.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2lZ9Y6kX3R1QT0tLRCbXABG9NtOJk2,
Democracy Research Institute (website), Monitoring Report on Participation of Religious Organizations and Clergy in the Pre-Election Campaign, 2020
Saturday Formula, (Facebook page) https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=352333906620925&ref=sharing