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Prior to a Government meeting on 8 May 2014 Vice Prime Minister, Kakha Kaladze, stated that he calls into question the objectivity of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) reports: “We remember very well what kind of reports were published during the previous Parliamentary elections. We remember well when the United National Movement was in the government, the rating of the Georgian Dream was 12% while, in fact, it had reached 65%. That is why I cannot assess the NDI reports positively due to the fact that the activity of this organisation for the previous nine years was clearly biased. It is interesting that Mr Navarro has just now recalled the illegal eavesdropping. He has not made any statements about this issue for the last nine years.

FactCheck

took interest in Kakha Kaladze’s statement and ought to verify its accuracy.

The National Democratic Institute report to which the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Energy referred concerned a survey conducted from 26 March until 18 April. Of the 3,942 people interviewed, 39% expressed support for Davit Narmania (Georgian Dream) among Tbilisi’s mayoral candidates while 10% put their support behind Nika Melia (United National Movement). According to this survey, 62% of the people interviewed put their support behind the That Concerns You campaign which was started by NGOs in response to illegal eavesdropping.

Prior to the Parliamentary elections in 2012, NDI conducted four surveys in total. Of these, three of the surveys concerned the ratings of political parties and these same three showed that the United National Movement was in the lead position in terms of citizen support.

The first NDI survey included the period from 22 February until 5 March 2012. The results were as follows: United National Movement 47% and Georgian Dream 10%.

According to the NDI survey conducted in June 2012, the United National Movement was leading by 36% while the Georgian Dream showed 18% of support. This survey also revealed that 22% of the population had not decided for whom they would cast their vote.

NDI published its third survey on 7 September 2012 which covered the time period from 31 July until 12 August. Of the 2,038 people interviewed, 37% put their support behind the United National Movement while 12% supported the Georgian Dream and 21% refused to answer.

One important nuance needs to be taken into consideration while analysing the abovementioned results. In particular, 21% of the people interviewed refrained from naming their favourite election candidate. According to general practice, when a high percentage of people do not express their opinion (as happened in this case), they are considered to be potential supporters of the opposition.

FactCheck

verified the second part of Kakha Kaladze’s statement as well in which he stated that the Director of the National Democratic Institute’s  local office did not take interest in the eavesdropping issue and has not made any statement about this for the previous nine years.

Teona Kupunia, NDI representative, told FactCheck

that the Institute’s survey work did not include questions about the issue of illegal eavesdropping. The survey conducted from 26 March until 18 April, in particular, concerned the That Concerns You campaign and not the illegal eavesdropping.

FactCheck reviewed every survey conducted by the NDI in Georgia. According to the surveys from previous years, there were no questions about eavesdropping. However, it should be noted that the That Concerns You campaign did not take place before and so, naturally, it could not have been included in the surveys. FactCheck contacted to Trasparency International Georgia and Fair Elections. As two NGOs actively participating in That Concerns You, told FactCheck

that they also  did not have such a large-scale campaign as this in the past. That said, these NGOs as well as the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association were continuously making statements about the issue of illegal eavesdropping and organizing protest activities.

That Concerns You-They Are Still Listening campaign, started its activities concerning the issue of illegal eavesdroppings on 6 March 2014. Various large-scale events took place under this campaign: a video-making contest about illegal eavesdropping,  a public action aimed at switching off mobile telephones for several hours, peaceful protests and, the most important, the preparation of a new draft law which was adopted by the Georgian Parliament at its first hearing but which did not take remarks by NGOs into consideration.

Of note is that the change of government in 2012 prompted an intensification of the That Concerns You campaign following the fact that the former government’s secret eavesdropping activities were documented and the NGO sector was then given an opportunity to present a more substantiated and well-reasoned argument concerning the issue. If in the previous years their protest was based upon their reasonable doubts, they thereafter now have the evidence that illegal surveillance was indeed carried out during the previous government and they consider that the legislative approach has not changed in this regard following the change of government. This, therefore, creates an environment of distrust towards the government.

  Conclusion After the verification of Kakha Kaladze’s statement, FactCheck

found out that prior to the 2012 Parliamentary elections, Georgian Dream coalition in fact had a 12% rating according to the NDI surveys. It should be noted that the surveys took place prior to the release of video footage showing the abuse and torture of inmates in one of Georgia’s prisons which significantly changed the pre-election situation in the country.

Kakha Kaladze criticised the NDI in the second part of his statement that the organisation did not focus upon the issue of secret eavesdropping. According to the information verified by FactCheck the organisation did not include questions about this issue in its surveys in the previous years. The organisation asked this question to those interviewed for the first time in its survey conducted from 26 March 2014 until 18 April. It included two questions: "Do you approve of the That Concerns You campaign" and "did you know about the legislative amendments requested within the That Concerns You campaign?"

It should be noted that such an active and centralised campaign regarding the secret eavesdropping activities had not been carried out in the previous years. Accordingly, it is, therefore, logical that the NDI did not focus upon this issue.

FactCheck concludes that the statement by Kakha Kaladze,”We remember very well what kind of reports were published during the previous Parliamentary elections. We remember the rating of the Georgian Dream was 12% while, in fact, it reached 65%. It is interesting that Mr Navarro has just now recalled the illegal eavesdropping. He has not made any statements about this issue for the last nine years,” is MOSTLY TRUE.