Georgia’s State Audit Office will look into donations for presidential candidate Salome Zurabishvili after a doctor who contributed ₾20,000 ($7,600) to her campaign said he would not vote for her. Several doctors at the Chachava and Ghudushauri clinics in Tbilisi have told the media that hospital administrators used their bank accounts to make donations to Zurabishvili.
Elguja Gotsiridze, an MP for the ruling Georgian Dream Party, is a shareholder of the Chachava Clinic and has worked at the Ghudushauri Clinic in the past.
Doctors from the two clinics have so far donated around ₾200,000 ($76,000)to Zurabishvili, an independent presidential candidate backed by Georgian Dream. On 5 October, Rustavi 2 quoted some of the doctors who had made donations as saying they donated their own money and that the clinic’s administration had nothing to do with their decisions.
Nata Kazakhashvili, a doctor at Chachava clinic who has donated ₾50,000 ($19,000) to Zurabishvili’s campaign, told Rustavi 2 she wanted to express her ‘great sympathy’ for Zurabishvili.
‘[I donated] probably out of women’s solidarity. It wouldn’t be bad if we had a female president. This money is my savings that I decided to donate to her. Nobody told me to do so, I cannot confirm these claims’, she said.
Rustavi 2 reported that they had secretly spoken with three doctors who said they were pushed by the administration to make donations.
According to them, the administrators made them sign documents agreeing that the administration would use their personal banking information to donate money under their names.
Paliko Kintraia, the head of the supervisory board of the Chachava Clinic, who has donated ₾10,000 ($3,800) to Zurabishvili’s campaign, said he had nothing to do with Georgian Dream. He also said, he ‘doesn’t know Salome Zurabishvili at all’.
‘I’m not the kind of man who would do something because somebody told me to. I was thinking, this person [Zurabishvili] doesn’t work, she doesn’t have an income […] and therefore needs help’, said Kintraia.
Donating to but not voting for Zurabishvili
On 8 October, Nikoloz Kintraia, a doctor at the Chachava Clinic who has donated ₾20,000 ($7,600) to Zurabishvili, wrote on Facebook that he would not vote for Zurabishvili. Back in 2016, Kintraia donated ₾60,000 ($23,000)to Georgian Dream, and ₾40,000 ($15,000) in 2017.
‘Am I going to vote on elections? — Yes. Will I vote for Salome Zurabishvili? — No. Who will I vote for? I’m going to wait until the campaign ends and decide then. A lot of time ahead. Am I honest? — Yes’, wrote Kintraia. He later deleted the post.
In a statement on 8 October, Transparency International Georgia said the donations needed to be examined by the State Audit Office, ‘given that there’s a chance we’re dealing with donations through a third-person, which is forbidden under Georgian legislation and is punishable by fine of twice the amount of the donation’.
Georgian Dream MP Elguja Gotsiridze, who owns shares in Chachava Clinic, denied he had anything to do with the donations. He said it was unlikely the clinic’s administration made such arrangements, but even if they had, he was not involved.
‘Why would I ask such thing? Had I asked it, would they do it? People have their own opinions and I don’t interfere’, said Gotsiridze.
Zurabishvili said the accusations against the doctors were ‘insulting’ and that the fact that they were donating was ‘very natural’.
‘You should ask these doctors who made donations. For me, this is very logical. I think that speaking about doctors and dividing them into categories is not correct and very insulting.’
‘Everybody who supports me this way is very valuable to me. If somebody is supporting me to say later that they don’t and make a problem this way, I would not be surprised’, said Zurabishvili.
Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze claimed to have been pressured into making political donations for others in the past when he was appointed PM in June.
After Georgian Dream nominated him as their candidate for PM, revelations emerged that he donated ₾20,000 ($7,600) to the now–opposition United National Movement Party (UNM) in 2012, the year Georgian Dream came in power through parliamentary elections. The transfers were documented in a report by the State Audit Service.
Bakhtadze responded he had never transferred his money to the UNM.
‘You changed the law in 2012 and prohibited party donations from legal persons. It was followed by changes in the banking law. Therefore my personal account was used only technically. As for ideologically, I have been a Georgian Dream supporter since 2012’, said Bakhtadze.
[Read more about Mamuka Bakhtadze’s donation to UNM on OC Media: Bakhtadze appointed Georgian PM after grilling from MPs]
Presidential elections are scheduled for 28 October.