Non-governmental and media organizations started the campaign “Es Shen Gekheba(This Affects You)” in February, 2012 led by “Open Society Georgia Foundation”. The association was created in order to implement the campaign successfully, where several organizations joined at the initial stage: “Open Society Georgia Foundation”, “Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association”, “International Transparency-Georgia”, “International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy”, “Georgian Regional Media Association” and coalition “Choice for Freedom”.
The involved organizations and citizens did not reflect an interest of any political subject.
The campaign was initiated due to the legislation passed in December, 2011, namely, the changes in the law of “about political associations” by the Parliament, also, the changes in election and criminal code. The In the opinions of NGOs and experts, abovementioned changes had significantly worsened pre-election environment; radically opposed the statements of Georgian Government regarding improvements of election environment and legislation; the changes hindered the freedom of though and caused fear in citizens to support openly any party; limited the right of citizens’ property, made them bear unfair and hard responsibility and repressed the civic activity.
Legislation changes were even obscure for the lawyers. It could create the possibilities for wide, various interpretations and did not provide the fair conditions for political subjects. What’s more, electors, media, civic or business sector representatives were in danger because of these too “strict” sanctions. The new rules and limitations by the law would refer a real peril to any elector or juridical body.
One of the most alarming changes was to introduce a concept of “a person of a direct or indirect connection with a political party.” It’s importance to notice that this concept did not define who could be a connected person with the party and gave many interpretations. Due to this reason, many kinds of limitations could be extended to the person.
For example, legal limitations could be referred to a citizen:
- If he/she spoke about any political party, made a statement for or against of it;
- If he/she asked or received the help from a political party or politically active person (such as, emergency operation or any other emergency issue). In this case, the person might get a three-year prison sentence;
- If any worker of any organizations spoke up regarding his/her own political opinion, the source of the profit might be limited for the organization;
- If the citizen was considered as being politically active or connected with a political party, he/she might not get a a bank loan;
- If the Chamber of Control considered a citizen to be a politically active person, the chamber had the right to inspect his/her income and of relatives and to seize property.
The first phase of “Es Shen Gekheba” aimed to change the abovementioned legal modifications with the help of citizens’ active participation and involvements, accordingly to develop a competitive pre-election environment that would be acceptable for the voters.
After the first phase completion, the “second phase of the campaign” has begun. Initially, it aimed to spread media pluralism and to take those statements into consideration that would give the voters the possibility for making an informed choice. In addition to this, it was important to bring in the modifications in the election code to elaborate voting procedure on the election day and support this process in a more or less healthy environment.
In order to reach these goals four requirements were formulated:
- To show all Georgian TV channels via cable operators;
- To conduct pre-election TV debates;
- Elections without suppression and bribery;
- To count the votes correctly on the election day.
It should be noted that the campaign is hard to manage which is led by the participation of several organizations, where the coordination and conditions of final agreements must be agreed upon. In this situation, there was the only principle of “Open Society Georgia Foundation”: to consider the positions of all involving subjects in the campaign and to reach the agreement as a result of involvement of all organizations concerning the steps, demands, petitions and statements in the frame of the campaign.
The campaign “Es Shen Gekheba”(This Affects You) had several types of pre-determined and sensible goals. Despite of the fact, there were several demands in the process of the campaign:
- To cancel the concept of “a person a direct or indirect connection with a political party”;
- To minimize the fines;
- To turn on all TV channels in the cable net;
- To elaborate vote counting procedure on the election day;
- To secure the transparency of election administration activities;
- To regulate administrative resources;
- To ensure media equality for the political parties in the election period;
- To have the access to the outdoor advertisement for the election subjects;
- To publicize advertisement expenses of administrative and governmental bodies and etc.
Campaign organizers understood that all the demands could not be met in the activities of the campaign. Based on this, the main effort of the campaign “Es Shen Gekheba” was focused on reaching several, priority goals: to cancel the concept of “a person a direct or indirect connection with a political party”, to minimize the fines from 10-fold to 5-fold, to turn on all TV channels in the cable net and to hold the debates.
To reach all of these demands would be difficult without the active engagement of the society, civic society, media and international society.
Consequently, the organizers of the campaign “Es Shen Gekheba” focused their efforts on the following target groups:
- Citizens of Georgia
In order to make all citizens learn how they will be concerned by the new legislative challenges and to be united for their fundamental right defense
- Experts and thought leaders
In order to speak up their opinion publicly and to support the organizers in the process of the campaign implementation
- Media representatives
In order to understand the problem essence, to be actively engaged in the campaign and deliver its main messages to every citizen
- Non-governmental sector
In order to active participation in the campaign implementation process
- International organizations and diplomatic corps working in Georgia
Campaign organizers understood the importance of initiated legislative changes and risks connected about their changes. Therefore, active engagement of international organizations and embassies was determined as needful.
- Law and executive government of Georgia
In order to understand the demands of the society and to change legislative modifications and elective environment.
Due to difficulty of advocacy topic, a big effort was directed towards the campaign’s messages, which were developed in a different way and difficulty level for each target group. Campaign organizers realized that before a start of a large-scale campaign, active work was needed with media and to ensure support and to spread the topic wider.
The campaign strategy considered to involve actively the population, thought leaders, international society and media.
As mentioned before, in the beginning of the campaign, “Open Society Georgia Foundation” representatives decided to create a collation with free NGOs working in the sectors of elections and media doveleopment.
The slogan – Es Shen Gekheba(This Affects You) was formed. During slogan development, there was a proposition to have more active campaign, that was expressed in the word of “you” having removed the letter “n”. In this case, it would be: Es Shegekheba(This will affect you.)
Advocacy campaign started to declare publicly the petition and appeal those citizens and organizational bodies, for those living in a democratic society and protecting their own rights is highly important.
After the official start of the campaign all the means of communication were launched:
- Seminars and workshops with media, where the media representatives were explained, the legislative changes bear possible dangers and what were their essence.
- Ongoing meetings with the population and students in the regions, as well, in the capital city, where the population were explained the dangers from legislative changes to each citizen and why they should have joined the movement.
- Workshops with international organizations and diplomatic corps in order to explain main points of legislative changes, to introduce the campaign development plan to receive the future support and to make supportive official statements.
- Active working with experts and though leaders, in order to make them engaged in the process and promote the topic at media and public appearances.
- Development of legislative articles projects
- Organizing various actions and press conferences and make statements that ensure to create informational causes and to activate advocacy process.
- Activating all the media means
- Printing and spreading of informational leaflets, posters, T-shirts and banners. The advertisement materials were spread during the meetings with the population and they were easily comprehensible, as well as with aggressive messages. The poet Kote Kubaneishvili developed the texts, thus they were easily understandable and memorable. For example, “the new law can get us into blind alley”; “ I am looking at new laws with suspicion that reminds me election tricks” and etc.
- Developing advertisement videos and launch on TV and radio. The expected results from legislative changes were understandable and structurally developed in the advertisement videos and printed materials in the frame of the campaign. It must be noted that the videos were only shown at Maestro and 9th Channels thus their impact level was limited.
- Developing web-site and its popularization (http://esshengexeba.ge/). The website includes all the information concerning the campaign and is aimed at any target group. Every new statement is immediately posted on the site and creates the opportunity for the embassies and thought leaders to react and without special press conference, they are in the informational space. There is a special question and answer blog where it is discussed in a detailed way how legislative changes can be reflected in a real life.
- Totally 2097 likes at campaign “Es Shen Gekheba” Facebook page. Similarly to the website, the new information is being posted.
- The song was written by Zaza Khutsishvili in the frame of the campaign.
- The documentary movie was shot that displays the process of the campaign.
- What’s more, as a consequence of relevant information and support there were ongoing meetings and agreements with the representatives of legislative bodies and political parties in order to have shared and reached the abovementioned demands.
Society consolidation stared around the campaign with the petition declaration. 170 media and NGO representatives signed the petition except Rustavi2 and Imedi TV channels. After 2-3 days, 1600 citizens signed also. After frequent workshops media was actively involved to cover the campaign. The active phase of advocacy has started.
The campaign obtained support and trust of international organizations and embassies very soon. This aspect, namely, the active engagement of western countries ambassadors held a decisive meaning for the campaign success.
Two-phase campaign of advocacy forced the government to compromise:
- The concept of “a person of a direct or indirect connection with a political party” was cancelled.
- The quantity of fines from 10-fold to 5-fold was minimized.
- TV debates started.
- Despite serious resistance, TV companies Maestro and 9th Channel switched to channel TV network
- International observers decided to control pre-election process.
Campaign organizers understood from the beginning that the campaign will not have its 100% result and all the demands will not be met. Although consolidated movement forced the government to make several concessions. Concerning the background that the campaign refers to the election process and governmental redistributions, the reached result can be considered as a big success.