08 December 2021,   05:00
DRI calls on election entities to refrain from manipulating religion during election campaign

The Democracy Research Institute calls on election entities to refrain from manipulating religion during election campaign.

“As part of the pre-election campaign, Prime Minister often visits temples and chapels together with the political officials of the Georgian Dream. Since the appointment of the election day, Irakli Gharibashvili, together with his party members, has met with clergymen six times:

On August 19, Prime Minister visited St. Nicholas Church in Ozurgeti and congratulated Metropolitan Joseph on the feast of the transfiguration. The Prime Minister was accompanied by Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava, Deputy Speaker Archil Talakvadze and State Representative in the Guria region Giorgi Urushadze.

On August 26, the Prime Minister, together with Minister of Environment and Agriculture Levan Davitashvili, State Representative in the Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region Giorgi Guguchia and the clergy, visited St. Davit Agmashenebeli Church under construction.

On August 27, Irakli Gharibashvili, together with Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Irakli Karseladze, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Natia Turnava, Poti, Khobi and Senaki majoritarian MP Irakli Khakhubia and the local clergy, visited the memorial house of Zviad Gamsakhurdia in Dzveli Khibula and St. Lazarus monastery complex. On the same day, the Prime Minister visited the Metropolitan of Poti and Khobi, Grigol Berbichashvili.

On September 1, the Prime Minister visited Davit Agmashenebeli Cathedral in Samtredia, the residence of the Khoni and Samtredia eparchy. On the same day, according to the Georgian Government"s Facebook page, the PM visited the Vani Cathedral together with Metropolitan Anton of Vani and Baghdati.

It is noteworthy that the visits of members of the ruling party to temples and chapels have become particularly intense since the appointment of the election day, which may be related to the 2021 local self-government elections. According to the Georgian Government"s Facebook page, the rehabilitation of Zviad Gamsakhurdia memorial house and the construction of St. Lazarus monastery complex (visit time: August 27) was funded by the Cartu Foundation with GEL 13 million, for which Khobi Municipality Mayor thanked Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The Democracy Research Institute believes that the attempt to use the influence of religious organizations and specific clergy by election entities is a vicious practice and has a negative impact on election results. The above facts prove that by using the authority of the Church and specific clergy as an instrument, the Georgian Dream party may be trying to win over part of the electorate, which hinders healthy competition and threatens to hold elections in accordance with the election principles enshrined in the Constitution”, - reads the statement.