a-p3877 (ACC-GEO-3877)

In response to your above request we may provide you with the following information:


1) Background information on the Liberal Party


Among the sources consulted by ACCORD several different statements regarding the founding date of the Liberal Party could be found. While the London Information Network on Conflicts and State-Building (LINKS) considered the Georgian Liberal Party a small and only in March 2003 formed party, the Caucasus Information Portal states in its “Who is who” section that the Liberal Party was founded in 2002. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty mentioned that Liberal Party was founded in November 2002 (RFE/RL 19 September 2003).


Above mentioned sources all considered Vakhtang Khmaladze, a former entrepreneur (AmCham September 2003) and author of the 2003 Unified Election Code (LINKS January 2004), one of the party’s founders (LINKS January 2004; Caucasus Information Portal accessed 21 June 2004).


According to LINKS and RFE/RL in early September 2003 the Georgian Liberal Party, then headed by Vakhtang Khmaladze and former Control Chamber head Revaz Shavishvili [or Rezo Shevishvili], aligned with the New Rightists Party (LINKS January 2004, para. 3.6; RFE/RL 19 September 2003; AmCham September 2003); both together formed the New Rightists Bloc (LINKS January 2004, para. 3.6). According to the 8 September 2003 FBIS Report the members of the Liberal Party intended to run in the November 2003 parliamentary elections on the New Right’s list. Moreover, the FBIS report mentioned that according to the New Right leader Davit Gamkrelidze [or David Gamqrelidze] the unification of the two parties “is not an election alliance but rather `long-term’ unification based on `ideological principles’ (FBIS Report 8 September 2003, para. 2).


With regard to the New Rightists bloc’s programme LINKS stated in its election report:

“The [New Rightists] bloc’s programme, `900 Days’, was rooted in a three-pronged approach to the galvanizing of economic renewal, the provision of social guarantees and the strengthening of national security and identity. Like other parties, the bloc advocated a pro-Western orientation, including NATO membership, and emphasised both the financial independence and prudence of its leaders.
The bloc mounted a slick campaign, organized by an American PR firm. Its central appeal appeared to lie in the promise of political incorruptibility deriving from financial independence, and in its prudent approach to opposition. In the words of one New Rightists official, “we are not radicals: we want evolution, not revolution”.
The party did suffer somewhat from allegations of excessive interference from one of its sponsors, the Georgian magnate Badri Patarkatsishvili, a controversial figure, closely associated with Russian business circles and facing charges in Russia on a number of counts of financial impropriety.” (LINKS January 2004, para. 3.6)

In addition, the news magazine of the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia (AmCham) provides in its November 2003 parliamentary election overview the following information on the New Rightists Bloc [or New Rights (Party)]:

“Slogan: Georgia is waiting for new force - Freedom, Change and Rebuilding
Priorities: Improving the political, economic, social and culture life in Georgia; overcoming the crises of employment and poverty; caring for the disadvantaged; restoring territorial integrity and securing Georgian independence; defeating corruption and fundamentally reforming the Georgian government; assistance to the business community, especially small and medium size business; liberalization of the tax system; protection of private property; endorsement of flat tax of 12 per cent and an elimination of the value added tax; promotion of market capitalization through increasing access to bank credits
Leaders: David Gamkrelidze, Levan Gachechiladze, Pikria Chikhradze, Dato Saganelidze, Rezo Shavishvili, Vakhtang Khmaladze
History: On June 15, 2001 the New Rights Party was established by the public organization New Movement, the New Faction of the Georgian Parliament and another political organization-the New Conservative Union of Georgia. It’s founders split from CUG and were initially strongly opposed to Zurab Zhvania, then Speaker, and his team.
It describes itself as an opposition party that brings together center-right conservative and free market political forces from across the country to advocate policies based on the principles of limited government, lower taxes, and local control. This party was been the most successful in winning seats in local councils throughout the country in 2002, taking nearly 20% of available seats. The New Rights were joined in early September by the New Liberals, headed by Vakhtang Khmaladze (a former Entrepreneur) and Rezo Shavishvili.” (AmCham News Magazine September 2003).

With regard to the 28 March 2004 parliamentary elections the OSCE stated that the political environment has changed dramatically since the November elections:

“The parties that led the November events - the National Movement and the Burjanadze-Democrats - consolidated their executive power and joined forces. The Citizens Union of Georgia, the former ruling party, disappeared from the political scene. The fragmented opposition attempted to consolidate itself by creating electoral blocs: the New Rights (NR) formed a coalition with Industry Will Save Georgia (IWSG) while the National Democratic Party (NDP) united with the Traditionalists.” (OSCE 29 March 2004, p. 3)

According to elections.ge (website powered by Civil Georgia)

“both, the New Rights and Industrialists parties enjoy with huge finances, however their popularity significantly decreased after distancing from the November bloodless revolution. Both criticized the revolution leaders and now are in the opposition to the current authorities.
The New Rights is led by one of the leading Georgian businessmen David Gamkrelidze, longtime head and founder of Aldagi, an insurance company that grew to be one of Georgia’s biggest businesses.
The Industrialists party is led by the Georgian beer magnate Gogi Topadze and other older-generation businessmen. Gogi Topadze is a founder of the Kazbegi company.” (Elections.ge accessed 21 June 2004)

Among the sources consulted by ACCORD no information could be found that the Liberal Party has left the New Rightists before or during the 28 March 2004 parliamentary elections.


One article published by Inter Press (posted at UNOMIG) is the only document which could be found among the sources consulted by ACCORD that mentioned the Liberal Party by name. According to this article the Central Election Commission (ECE) of Georgia has registered 47 political parties wishing to run for the parliamentary elections on March 28, among them the Georgian Liberal party headed by Rezav Shaishvili (Inter Press 9 February 2004).


In January 2004 RFE/RL mentioned that the new Georgian leadership was at odds with other political parties, in particular the opposition, over the optimal timing or the repeat vote for the 150 parliament seats to be allocated under the party-list system. According to RFE/RL in a 5 January statement the New Rightists argued that holding the parliamentary elections in early March would preclude compiling new and accurate voter lists and, more importantly, deprive political parties of the chance to conduct an effective election campaign. This, so the New Rightists, "will bring an end to political pluralism in Georgia, and the country will get a single-party parliament with no real opposition force to balance it."” (RFE/RL 6 January 2004)


The official website of the Georgian parliament does not list the Liberal Party among the parties represented in parliament. A list of members of the New Rightists represented in parliament can be accessed at http://intranet.parliament.ge/parl_2004/php/www/pg3webpartmmbrs_en.php?pid=27 (accessed 22 June 2004). While according to the official website of the Georgian parliament the coalition of the New Rightists and Industry Will Save Georgia (IWSG) IWSG, the so-called `Rightist Opposition - Industrialists, News’, reportedly consists of 17 members, the IFES election guide stated in its result summary that the coalition of New Rightists and IWSG received only 15 seats in the new parliament (Parliament of Georgia accessed 22 June 2004; IFES March 2004).


According to the final results of the elections as posted by Civil Georgia, two parties secured seats in the new parliament - President Saakashvili’s National Movement-Democrats, which received 66,24% of votes and the Rightist Opposition - New Rights-Industrialists - which received 7,96% of the votes. The other 10 parties and 4 election blocs failed to secure seats in the legislative body as they received less than 7% of votes (Civil Georgia 18 April 2004). According to an ITAR-TASS article released on 19 April 2004 the opposition is represented by 15 and eight deputies from the New Rightists-Industrialists Party (by party lists and from one-seat constituencies, respectively), Revival - six deputies from one-seat constituencies and Laborites -three deputies from one-seat constituencies (ITAR-TASS 19 April 2004).


Before the announcement of the final results Civil Georgia mentioned that election results in 48 precincts have been annulled due to numerous procedural violations, observed during the March 28 parliamentary elections. Furthermore, most of the annulled results are reportedly from the Kvemo Kartli region (26), also 12 in Shida Kartli and 4 in Adjara:

“Cancellation of election results in Kvemo Kartli region precincts hits hard the Rightist Opposition - Industrialists-New Rights coalition.
According to the Central Election Commission’s results announced on March 31 the Rightist Opposition cleared 7% threshold and received 7,62% of votes in March 28 elections.
However, cancellation of the election results of those precincts were the Rightists Opposition garnered significant number of votes would change their standing.” (Civil Georgia 1 April 2004)

2) Persecution of members of the Liberal Party during elections and nowadays


Among the sources consulted by ACCORD no information could be found whether members of the Liberal Party faced any harassment, discrimination or persecution during the elections and/or nowadays.


However, according to Civil Georgia the Central Election Commission (CEC) on April 17 lifted the immunity of MP candidate Tengiz Gogichashvili of the election bloc Rightist Opposition - New Rights-Industrialists. The General Prosecutor’s Office has reportedly brought criminal charges against Mister Gogichashvili, director of a sugar production plant, who is accused of tax evasion and misappropriation of 89 thousand GEL (approximately 45 thousand USD):

“Tengiz Gogichashvili was running for MP from the Rightists Opposition’s party-list. The bloc cleared 7% threshold in the March 28th parliamentary elections, hence Gogichashvili became an MP; however his MP credentials are not confirmed by the newly elected Parliament.” (Civil Georgia 17 April 2004)

No additional information on the situation of members of the Liberal Party resp. New Rightists in the run-up to and/or aftermath of the 28 March 2004 parliamentary elections could be found among the sources consulted by ACCORD.


In general, the OSCE mentioned in its preliminary statement on the parliamentary elections that intimidation and physical abuse targeted at opposition supporters and journalists underlined the serious democratic deficit in Adzharia (OSCE 29 March 2004, p. 1):

“In Adjara, the situation differed significantly from the rest of Georgia. Opposition gatherings were mostly forbidden or violently suppressed and attacked by supporters of the Adjaran authorities, including a public meeting on 20 February during the visit of the Council of Europe’s Secretary General, Walter Schwimmer, to Batumi. Offices of parties in opposition to the Adjaran authorities and of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were ransacked, journalists and opposition activists were assaulted, and opposition members of election commissions were intimidated. While incidents of violence and intimidation also marred previous elections in Adjara, the intensity and frequency with which they occurred this time was much higher.” (OSCE 29 March 2004, p. 7)

3) Information on the 28 March 2004 parliamentary elections


According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) the 28 March 2004 parliamentary elections were considered by international election observers to mark continued progress toward democratic reforms. However, mainstream opposition groups claimed the widespread election fraud, according to RFE/R (RFE/RL 29 March 2004):

“Revising down by half an earlier claim, the left-wing Labor Party -- which according to preliminary official results garnered only 5.4 percent of the vote -- maintains that it won the support of at least 15 percent of Georgian voters.
The Labor Party accuses Saakashvili and his government of buying votes. "The elections were as widely falsified as those of 2 November [2003]. In fact, nothing has changed in the country," Labor Party spokesman Gela Danelia told reporters last night.
Fraud claims were also put forward by the National Democratic Party-Union of Traditionalists coalition which, according to partial returns, garnered 2.4 percent of the vote. Even the New Rightists-Industrialists bloc maintains that the election was unfair and says it won at least 9 percent of the votes.
Both groups say they will appeal to the country’s highest courts. Dozens of Labor Party activists picketed the CEC building today, demanding a recount. Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili has called for further peaceful protests later today.
Citing fraud concerns, three small opposition parties withdrew less than 48 hours before the vote.” (RFE/RL 29 March 2004)

The London Information Network on Conflicts and State-building (LINKS) which had a team of ten international observers (deployed in Kvemo Kartli, Samtskhe Javakheti, Adjara, Gori and Tbilisi) monitoring the polling concluded that during the 28 March 2004 parliamentary elections were less procedural irregularities than in the 2 November 2003 elections. However, according to LINKS the overall picture was still marred by reports from LINKS’s observers of serious violations in Adzharia, including ballot-stuffing and intimidation. Moreover, LINKS heard reports of ballot-stuffing in Kvemo-Kartli, and witnessed ballot-stuffing in Samtskhe Javakheti. In its statement released on March 29 LINKS also noted some positive elements in the parliamentary elections, among them the provision of ballot papers and election instructions in minority languages and satisfying order of the voters lists (LINKS 29 March 2004).


The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) provides in its preliminary findings regarding the 28 March 2004 parliamentary elections a summary of the official OSCE assessments of the following elections-related issues: election system and legal framework, election administration, voter registration, candidate registration and the campaign, the Media, election disputes, participation of national minorities, participation of women in the election process, civil society organizations (CSOs), election day, vote count, and tabulation. For detailed information on the above mentioned topics please consult the “Statement of Preliminary Findings And Conclusions” released by the OSCE on 29 March 2004 (see list of references).

“The IEOM [International Election Observation Mission] notes the following positive elements in this election:
[...] Improvements to the administration of the election process;
[...] Enhanced professionalism and openness of the CEC [Central Election Commission];
[...] Commendable efforts to improve, computerize and consolidate the voter lists, although they remain incomplete;
[...] With exception of Adjara, a peaceful and free pre-election period, although there was a late and very limited campaign;
[...] Freedom of expression enjoyed by the media, with the exception of Adjara;
[...] Efforts made to increase the participation of national minorities in the elections, including the printing of bilingual ballot papers and voter information material;
[...] Improved training for lower-level election officials;
[...] Increased secrecy of the ballot; and
[...] Less police presence in and around polling stations.
However, issues of concern remain:
[...] A complete lack of commitment by the authorities of Adjara to guarantee sufficient conditions for the conduct of a meaningful democratic election in that area;
[...] The continuing lack of a clear separation between State administration and political party structures, and the ongoing potential for misuse of State administrative resources;
[...] Inability to ensure the balanced composition of election commissions at all levels;
[...] The interference by some local authorities in the functioning of a number of lower-level commissions, thereby lessening their independence; failure of the State TV to provide a balanced coverage of the election campaign, and a forum for political debates with exchange of views;
[...] The unwillingness to lower the 7% threshold for seat allocation when constitutional amendments were recently adopted; and
[...] In contrast to the 2 November Parliamentary elections, a reduced scrutiny by domestic observers in the pre-election period. However, on election day domestic observers were present in substantially more polling stations than in the previous election.” (OSCE 29 March 2004)

The `Fair Elections Foundation’ which is an independent, non-partisan and impartial domestic non-governmental organization, whose mission is to ensure democratic elections through the monitoring of election processes, qualifies the March parliamentary elections as being much progressive in comparison with November 2 2003 and January 4 2004 elections:

“In contrast to November 2 elections, this time government revealed political will to conduct truly democratic elections. Though, electoral authorities in Ajara are subject to critics because of their failure to discharge obligations mandatory for guaranteeing fair and democratic elections.
Genuine step forward was made in context of voters’ lists formation, informational campaigns, legislative background, electoral authorities, and in particular, activities of Central Election Commission.
However, it should be mentioned, that political misbalance characterized for electoral authorities and partiality of individual members of election commissions hindered the conduct of honest and transparent elections. In this connection further developments are required.
March 28 Parliamentary Elections made closer approach to international standards of democracy.” (Fair Elections - without date)

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the ACCORD within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


References (all sources accessed 22nd June 2004):


Crisis and Renewal in Georgian Politics: The 2003 Parliamentary Elections and 2004 Presidential Elections, January 2004


Factions of Parliament, "Right Oppozition - Industrialists, News", without date


Parliamentary Ballot Catalyzes Shifts In Georgian Political Landscape, Caucasus Report Volume 6, Number 32, 19 September 2003