2013

ISFED (Georgia): Final Report on the long-term observation of the Presidential Elections, 27 October 2013

 

Key findings

For the improvement of applicable legal framework during the period leading up to the elections, creation of an inter-factional task force on elections in the parliament was a positive step forward, allowing all stakeholders to present legislative recommendations and participate in discussions. It is to the credit of the task force that the Election Code and the Law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens were amended. We also welcome changes for limiting use of state resources, giving legal entities an opportunity to provide funding for parties, reducing unreasonable and disproportionate sanctions imposed on political parties, drawing a line between the timeframes for administrative proceedings and proceedings that involve property impounding, as well as timeframes for filing corresponding appeals. However, the work of the inter-factional task force did not address certain important issues that include staffing of election administration, changes in the election system for local self-government and parliamentary elections, formation of voter lists, media coverage of elections, etc. Therefore, we believe that in order to further improve the election laws the work on election reform should continue.   

 

It is ISFED’s assessment that the work of the CEC was open, promoting collaborative environment with local and international organizations as well as political parties. The CEC was actively involved in voter awareness. It created a video about election procedures as well as guidelines for use of state resources, consideration of election disputes and other matters.

 

However, ISFED criticized two of the CEC’s decisions: one about the refusal to register a holder of dual citizenship as presidential candidate, made on the basis of a wrongful interpretation of the Constitution, and another about regulations of photo and video shooting during the polling day.

 

As to District Election Commissions, majority of problems revealed during the monitoring was related to staffing of the election administration. Some of the temporary members of district election commissions appointed by the CEC as well as political parties also served in various public agencies. Further, members of the Coalition Georgian Dream interfered with the work of district election commissions.

 

The format of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Election was very important during pre-election period, as it enabled political parties and monitoring organizations to raise important issues pertinent to the election period before the commission and submit reports about alleged violations.

 

The IATF which operated under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, did elaborate several important recommendations; however, considering non-binding nature of these recommendations as well as the lack of mechanism to ensure compliance, majority of these recommendations was never realized.  

 

Further, examining issues raised by the UNM in a constructive manner was also problematic as frequently meetings of the IATF turned into the scene of political debates. Lack of constructive environment at the IATF meetings had adverse impact on the work of the commission and the opposition’s full involvement in it. 

 

Compared to 2012 parliamentary elections, the State Audit Office was less active. The financial monitoring service did not examine any of ISFED’s reports of vote buying.

 

Compared to 2012 pre-election period, when the service of financial monitoring was harshly criticized for violations, the process of obtaining statements from citizens did not involve any violations. Total of 92 persons were interviewed during the pre-election period for obtaining statements. 

 

Similar to the 2012 parliamentary elections, the issue of voters removed from registration remained a problem. The CEC estimated that number of such voters was 97 000. We welcome the fact that the CEC did not include these voters automatically on the voter list, unlike the previous 2012 elections. Instead, the Agency for the Development of State Services posted a database on its website for re-registration of voters removed from registration, through which every individual citizen was able to receive information about the status of his/her registration and learn about procedures of re-registration.

 

During the pre-election period, there were no frequent abuses of state resources by political parties and election subjects. ISFED detected total of 17 cases of abusing public resources both in favor of the ruling party as well as the opposition. ISFED found that the coalition Georgian Dream abuse public resources in ten cases, the UNM in seven.

 

ISFED also detected several facts of vote buying with the involvement of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, by transferring goods of material value or offering benefits to citizens of Georgia.

 

During the reporting period ISFED detected 14 acts of pressure and threats. In most of the cases these threats and pressure were leveled against municipal officials.

 

We identified 7 acts of assault on political grounds, including 3 against the UNM supporters, two against supporters of the Democratic Movement – Unified Georgia and two against members of the coalition Georgian Dream. Assaults were perpetrated both by supporters of various candidates as well as police officers, representatives of municipal authorities and members of parliament.

 

Changes of municipal officials on political grounds continued during the pre-election period. Even though the IATF issued a recommendation to terminate any comprehensive changes in self-government agencies, the process continued intensely and also entailed impeachment of Gamgebelis and Sakrebulo Chairpersons. During the pre-election campaign Gamgebelis were replaced in 19 municipalities, Sakrebulo Chairpersons in three; notably, we found that majoritarian MPs interfered in the work of self-government authorities in a number of municipalities; in a number of instances Gamgebelis were replaced amid public protests.

 

During the pre-election period election subjects and their supporters held agitation meetings throughout Georgia. We found attempts to interfere with the UNM primaries by using force by radical opponents of the political opposition. These facts were later discontinued.

 

ISFED estimates that from July 1 through October 23, 2013, political parties and their presidential candidates held total of 801 public meetings during the pre-election period in various territorial units of Georgia.

 

The pre-election period was marked with a free media environment in which various outlets covered meetings of election subject candidates with voters and political developments that unfolded. Despite these positive developments, several media outlets faced a number of obstacles. The most outstanding of these cases was the case of Guria Moambe when local media outlet accused Gamgebeli of exerting pressure, while one of the owners of Maestro TV made a statement about alleged pressure on political rounds by a group of officials. We would like to also highlight the developments around the public broadcaster involving the closing down of political talk-shows during the pre-election period.  

 

Polling was conducted in an organized manner and in a peaceful environment throughout Georgia. Majority of violations detected on the Election Day were procedural in nature. Several major flaws in the polling process include failure to adequately maintain election materials (112 cases), presence of unauthorized individuals at election precinct (13 cases), voting with inappropriate documents (12 cases), violation of regulations for sealing election documents (12 cases) and problems about voter lists in Batumi. Further, there was a trend of gaps in summary protocols (18 cases) and rewriting information recorded in summary protocols (13 cases).

 

According to PVT, voter turnout throughout Georgia was 46.9%[1], in Tbilisi – 48.2% and 46.4% in the regions, a significant decrease from the 2012 parliamentary elections when voter turnout was 60.9%.

 

ISFED’s observers filed total of 93 complaints over violations in polling, vote counting and drawing up of summary protocols in various district and precinct election commissions. Complaints were also filed over violations that include inadequately preparing/maintaining election documents, voting with inappropriate documents, pre-made signatures, violation of casting-of-lots and inking procedures, regulations for sealing election material, etc. ISFED’s observers reacted to 216 violations in total. Notably, majority of these violations were technical in nature and mostly result of lack of professionalism and qualification of election commission members.

 

Application process on the Elections Day was conducted in a transparent manner, in observance of applicable laws. District election commissions examined facts, representatives of the organization were able to attend complaints review and express the position of the organization about applications filed. Decisions of election commissions were mostly substantiated; however, many decisions failed to provide grounds for rejecting the claims.

 
See the full report here: PDF (EN)  |  PDF (GE)

EPDE protests against arrest of independent election observer Anar Mammadli in Baku

 

On December 16th Anar Mammadli, chairman of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, Baku (EMDS), and board member of EPDE has been arrested and imprisoned for a three months pre-trial detention through the Nasimin District Court in Baku. EMDS has carried out independent observation of the last Presidential elections in Azerbaijan in October 2013 and has published a critical assessment of the election process. EMDS is one of the most professional and recognised human rights organisations in Azerbaijan. EPDE is worried that the arrest of Anar Mammadli and the investigations of EMDS led by the Prosecutor general’s office since October 31st, have political motives, and are a reaction to the critical statements made by EMDS after the recent Presidential elections in Azerbaijan.

 

Anar Mammadli is accused of having violated Article 192.2.2 of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan which prohibits "business activity without registration in the order provided by the legislation of the Azerbaijan Republic". He and the organization's members face criminal charges on tax evasion in significant amount, excess of official powers and engaging in illegal business activities. If convicted, Anar Mammadli risks up to five years of imprisonment. The Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre EMDS was deprived of its official registration in 2008 and has not been granted official registration since that time. EPDE is of the opinion that the arrest of Anar Mammadli is contradicting international obligations of Azerbaijan, specially the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

 

Already since November 25th Anar Mammadli and four other staff members of EMDS, have been prohibited to leave the country. The same measures have been applied to EMDS's partner organisation, the International Cooperation of Volunteers, ICV.  The European Platform for Democratic Elections protests against the arrest of Anar Mammadli. We call on the government of the Azerbaijan to immediately free Anar Mammadli and to end the investigation carried out already since more than six weeks against EMDS which seriously hamper their ongoing work on reporting on the observation of the last Presidential elections. We also call on the government to proceed with the legal registration of EMDS.

 

The European Platform for Democratic Elections is an association of thirteen European civil society organizations conducting or supporting citizens’ election observation throughout Europe. The Platform has been installed in December 2012 in Warsaw and aims to protect the rights of European voters through the development of citizens’ election observation.

 

This statement as PDF (EN)

Statement on the human rights situation with EPDE member organisations

 

European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) has to state with concern that a number of states that are home to EPDE member organizations are not only marked by a regression in the field of free and democratic elections, but also grossly violate human rights, with ongoing harassment of civil society activists for their civic and human rights activities.

 

According to reports of the national and international observation missions, the Azerbaijani presidential election of October 9, 2013 was marked by gross violations of electoral rights of citizens and massive manipulations of the will of the citizens of Azerbaijan.

 

The officially announced election results in no way reflect the actual voting results. Thus, elections in Azerbaijan do not meet international standards.

 

Of particular concern are the repressions against independent observation organizations in Azerbaijan that followed the presidential election of October 9, 2013.

 

The Platform expresses protest against frivolous and unlawful criminal prosecution of a member of the Coordinative Board of the Platform, the head of the Azerbaijan-based Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), Anar Mammadli, and other members of the organization, who have been under investigation since October 31, 2013 for receiving financial support for their activities from international donor organizations. The persecution also concerned EMDS partner organization, International Cooperation of Volunteers Public Union (ICV).

 

Apartments of the organization’s members were searched and the activists themselves were interrogated by order of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan. The organization's leader, Anar Mammadli, and four other civil activists have been prohibited from leaving the territory of Azerbaijan.

 

We regard such actions of the Azerbaijani authorities as an act of revenge against the prominent organization of Azerbaijan for its independent, honest and principled position in assessing the results of the presidential election in Azerbaijan.

 

The Platform also protests against the illegal conviction of Ales Bialiatski, Chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", who has been imprisoned since August 2011 for human rights activities of the organization he heads supported by funds received from international donor organizations. Ales Bialiatski was declared a prisoner of conscience and his unconditional release has been requested by all the democratic organizations and the international human rights community.

 

Of equal concern is the prosecution of the GOLOS Association (Russia) subjected to a mechanism under so-called "foreign agents" law, which resulted in cessation of the organization’s activity and financial sanctions against the organization and its head, Liliya Shibanova,

 

The Platform states that the legislation on "foreign agents" used against the non-governmental organizations of Russia does not meet international standards, and aims to harass civil society institutions. We directly link the harassment of the GOLOS Association to the organization’s work within independent election observation in Russia, especially for the dissemination of evidence of massive fraud during the elections in Russia in 2011 and 2012.

 

Moreover, similar legal acts can be adopted in a number of other countries, which base its legislation on the experience of juridical grounding of repressions in Russia.

 

The Platform condemns the actions of the law-enforcement agencies of Ukraine against participants of the peaceful protest actions in the Ukraine, informational web resources and oppositional political parties. Any actions on the part of the authorities seeking to limit the right to peaceful assemblies, freedom of expression and spread of information are inadmissible.

 

We call on the authorities of the Ukraine to ensure the observance of the right of all citizens to peaceful assemblies and freedom of opinion, and to urgently release all those detained during peaceful protest actions.

 

European Platform for Democratic Elections demands to immediately put an end to the persecution of civil society activists in Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia, to promptly release all political prisoners and allow their full rehabilitation.

 

The Platform also calls for the abolition of legislation aimed at discrimination of public associations and creating obstacles to the development of civil society.

 

The Platform calls for democratic governments in their contacts with the governments of countries where human rights are violated to be guided by the principle of universality of human rights and the rule of democratic values.

 

We encourage continuing pressure of any kind on the countries that violate human rights and demand abstaining from repressions against civil society and any actions aimed at limiting civil rights.

 

In addition, the Platform calls on democratic countries to increase support for civil society in countries where human rights are not respected, regardless of their economic and political contacts with the regimes of these countries.

 

This statement as PDF (EN)  |  PDF (RU)

Experts’ Discussion on Citizens’ Election Observation in the Eastern Partnership and the Russian Federation in 2013

Warsaw, 5th December 2013: On December 11th 2013 will be held an Experts’ Discussion on Citizens’ Election Observation in the Eastern Partnership and the Russian Federation in 2013 at 10:00 in the Stefan Batory Foundation, Sapieżyńska 10a, Warsaw.

 

Elections in Eastern Europe in 2013 have demonstrated once again the decisive role of citizens’ election observation on political transformation processes. The election observation in Georgia has prevented a roll-back and has contributed to the legitimization of the newly elected Georgian President. The presence of citizens’ observers during the Moscow city major elections in September has prevented notorious falsification and has safeguarded the votes for Aleksej Navalny. At the same time we observe pressure on election observers and influence on members of international observation missions in order to legitimate rigged elections as lastly during the Presidential elections in Azerbaijan. How do citizens’ election observers address these challenges? How can international institutions and civil society support independent citizens’ election observation throughout Europe? How do election observation networks prepare to the upcoming elections in 2014 and 2015 in Moldova, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Ukraine?

 

Welcome words: Ewa Kulik-Bielińska, Stefan Batory Foundation

 Lilia Shibanova, Association GOLOS, Russia

Anar Mamadli, EMDS, Azerbaijan

Nino Lomjaria, ISFED, Georgia

Artur Sakunts, HCAVanadzor, Armenia

Berit Lindeman, NHC, Norway

Facilitation: Stefanie Schiffer, European Exchange, Germany

 

Please find attached full program of the discussion. (English and Polish)

EPDE protests against pressure on EMDS (AZ)

On 31 October the General Prosecutor’s Office of Azerbaijan conducted a search in the office of EPDE member organization Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) in Baku. The search was authorized by the decision of the Nasimi District Court. The search lasted for five hours, in the end 20 folders with project documentation, press releases, reports and financial documents along with two computers were confiscated for further investigation. In the following days members of EMDS were questioned about the activities of EMDS. The investigators were particularly interested in the observation of the 9 October 2013 Presidential elections that was conducted by EMDS in partnership with other local organizations as well as with EPDE. So far, EMDS was not notified about any concrete accusations of violation of law through the General Prosecutor’s Office. A document legally preventing EMDS staff members from spreading information about the questioning was signed by EMDS staff.

 

EMDS staff has been informed that that they were being investigated for receiving grants from foreign sources. They were asked questions about projects, donors and international affairs. The senior staff of the organization is at risk of being criminally charged. The Director of EMDS, Anar Mammadli is expected to be called in for questioning where he may be required to sign a document preventing him from leaving the country.

 

The European Platform for Democratic Elections protests against the intimidation of its member organization, the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre in Baku. We are worried that the investigations led by the Prosecutor general’s office, have political motives, a reaction to the critical statements made by EMDS after the recent Presidential elections in Azerbaijan.  

 

By signing the Paris Charter guaranteeing the right for free elections, the European Convention of Human Rights, protecting the right to association and assembly, and the UN Resolution on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Azerbaijan has committed itself to guarantee the basic rights of its citizens to free elections and to the observation of the conduct of the elections through its citizens.

 

We call on the government of the Azerbaijan to respect the right to independently observe elections and to ensure the protection of human rights defenders. We also call on the government to proceed with the legal registration of EMDS, deprived of registration since 2008.

 

The European Platform for Democratic Elections is an association of thirteen European civil society organizations conducting or supporting citizens’ election observation throughout Europe. The Platform has been installed in December 2012 in Warsaw and aims to protect the rights of European voters through the development of citizens’ election observation.

 

The statement is available here as PDF (EN)

ISFED (Georgia) presents PVT projections on election day

The voting process was mostly conducted in an organized and peaceful environment. Most of the violations observed were procedural and small in nature. The major drawbacks of the day were the following: voters cast their ballot without an official ID, electoral documentation was not properly filled-out, unauthorized persons were present inside the station, and issues with voters’ lists in Batumi. Most of the violations identified by ISFED were spread throughout the country. However, in the following 12 polling stations more than one violation occurred: #25 in Mtatsminda, #2 and #20 in Chughureti, #23 in Dedopolistskaro, #47 in Bolnisi, #31 and #45 in Dusheti, #13 in Kharagauli, #26 in Zestaponi, #99 in Zuggidi, #14 in Kobuleti and #21 in Shuakhevi.


Given the reports about the conduct of the Election Day process, ISFED is confident releasing their PVT projections for the Presidential Election. Their PVT projections are based on reports received from all 100% of its 800 PVT observers.

 

The full PVT-report and the results of the election day observation are available here:

 

Report on PVT projections: PDF (EN)  |  Report on Voting Process: PDF (EN)

ISFED (Georgia): Sixth Interim Report on Pre-Election Monitoring

ISFED found that various political parties and candidates held 377 public meetings from October 7 through October 24, 2013. Notably, the number of meetings was significantly increased as the Elections Day approached and in this respect the pre-election campaign became particularly active.


Observers reported two acts of political pressure and threats against member of Sakrebulo in Tskaltubo from the United National Movement and one of the supporters of the United National Movement.


Observers also reported three acts of physical assault on political grounds against members of the UNM and the coalition Georgian Dream, as well as three activists of the United Georgia – Democratic Movement; election campaign posters were intentionally damaged in three instances; In particular, Davit Bakradze’s posters were torn down in Batumi, village of Bakurtsikhe in Gurjaani District and Lanchkhuti.


Abuse of administrative resources was reported at Giorgi Margvelashvili’s pre-election meeting in Poti attended by municipal officials during working hours, as well as in Shuakhevi where majoritarian MP of Batumi was agitating in favor of the coalition Georgian Dream’s candidate during an event funded by the municipality budget.

Pre-election campaign was conducted in violation of applicable regulations by the coalition Georgian Dream’s candidate in Batumi and Poti.

Despite the recommendation adopted by the Inter-Agency Task Force, attempts of staff changes in self-government authorities continued. In particular, during the reporting period members of Keda Sakrebulo attempted to dismiss Deputy Chairperson of Sakrebulo and a member of the UNM, Jemal Sharadze.

 

The full report is available here: PDF (EN)  |  PDF (GE)

EMDS (AZ) first post-election statement on investigation of election complaints

 

Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) conducted long-term and short-term observation of the presidential election together with domestic non-governmental organizations and citizen groups producing two Interim Reports and Preliminary Statement following the Election Day.

 

32 professionally trained long-term observers cooperating with EMDS monitored nomination and registration of candidates, pre-election campaigning and preparation to the Election Day periods during the 9 October 2013 Presidential Election. On the Election Day, observers collaborating with the organization conducted observation of voting and vote tabulation in 769 randomly selected polling stations across the country. They reported serious violations in 91 percent of polling stations, while cases of multiple voting, ballot stuffing, voting of ineligible persons and inaccurate reflection of voting results on protocols were noted in 30-45 percent of all polling stations in the country.

 

EMDS notes with concern that instead of properly investigating information, as well as photo and video materials about election violations Constituency Election Commissions and the Central Election Commission (CEC) demonstrated inadequate reaction failing to carry out their obligations stipulated by law.

 

EMDS states that investigation of four complaints about the election violation received by the CEC were carried out partially or were ignored completely resulting in violation of requirements of Articles 112 and 112-1 of the Election Code. For example, Gulagha Aslanli, authorized representative of presidential candidate Jamil Hasanli, filed a complaint to the CEC requesting to invalidate results of voting in number of polling stations and election constituencies due to occurred violations. Though the CEC considered the case, the designated expert group stated that original copies of incident forms were not submitted and provided carbon copies cannot be considered as evidence. Consequently, on 13 October, the CEC did not granted the request stating that claims about violations could not be verified and the appealing party failed to provide relevant documents and materials. However, Gulagha Aslanli was detained by police while on his way to the CEC with the aforementioned original documents and held in Binagadi region police custody for 5 hours without any explanation. Therefore, the CEC reviewed complaint of Jamil Hasanli without participation of his authorized representative and denied his appeal. Parties appealed the decision of the CEC to the Baku Court of Appeal which refused to grant their claims during the hearing chaired by the judge Ulvi Mayilov on 15 October.

 

It should be noted that on 17 October, the CEC discussed the final results of the 9 October Presidential Elections and the final protocol was adopted with agreement of all its members with exception of Akif Gurbanov. However, presidential candidate Jamil Hasanli filed a complaint to the Baku Court of Appeal requesting to deem the final decision of the CEC on the results of presidential elections and the final protocol invalid. On 18 October, the court chaired by judge Hilal Khalilov discussed the complaint and ruled decision to deny the appeal without further investigation. On 21 October, Jamil Hasanli took this decision to the Supreme Court, which refused to grant his complaint.

 

EMDS believes that the CEC, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court failed to ensure effective remedy mechanisms for complaints on election violations and therefore impartial investigation of election violations did not take place. Consequently, both the CEC and judicial system did not undertake actions to execute proper investigation of election complaints in accordance with their duties required by the law.

 

EMDS notes with regret that alternative opinions of interested parties on election violations were not considered during the adoption of the final protocol on the Presidential Election by the CEC and the relevant plenary session of the Constitutional Court held on 19 October. The Constitution Court carried out the conduct of plenary in rush, though it had 4 more days to do so (the Court can hold plenary in 14 days after the voting).

 

EMDS notes that the Constitutional Court did not wait until the final date of investigation of election violations occurred on the Election Day stipulated by the law, while holding its plenary session. For example, on 18 October, Baku Court of Appeal refused to grant claim of presidential candidate Jamil Hasanli and he took the case to the Supreme Court, which held hearing on 22 October and upheld the decision of the Appeal Court.

 

EMDS also notes with regrets that opinion of Akif Gurbanov, who expressed special opinion to the decision of the CEC on the final results of election alternative to that of majority, was not considered during the plenary session of the Constitutional Court. EMDS reminds that the CEC failed to consider the 5 year term of the presidency stipulated by the Constitution, while determining the 9 October as the date of the election. Therefore, the inauguration of the president did not take place five years after the 24 October 2008 presidential inauguration, but was carried out several days earlier.

 

Next month EMDS will release its final report on the long-term and short-term observation of the 9 October 2013 Presidential Election and recommendations on improving the election legislation and practice of Azerbaijan.

 

Download the statement as PDF (EN)

SUMMER SCHOOL AND OBSERVATION OF THE GERMAN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION

 

Berlin, 22 October 2013: From September 19-25, 2013 eighteen EPDE election experts observed the German Parliamentary elections and attended a summer school on election observation techniques. Topics as mathematical-statistical analysis of election results, electoral legislation and election systems were on the agenda of the summer school.

 

The visit started with two days (September 20th and 21st) of experts’ meetings with German election experts Prof. Oskar Niedermayer (Freie Universität Berlin) and Prof. Thorsten Faas (Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz), with the head quarters of the German party DIE LINKE Dr. Harald Pätzolt and the head of the Landeswahlleitung Berlin Dr. Petra Michaelis-Merzbach. 

 

Sunday 22 September 2013, the day of the elections to the Bundestag, EPDE member spend in Berlin. They visited several polling stations; observe the process of the elections and subsequently the vote counting in different regions of Berlin. Like this they could familiarize oneself with the organisational basic conditions of the elections in Germany.

 

 

 

On September 23 and 24 September 2013 a summer school took place in Berlin in cooperation with the Humboldt University Berlin. The summer school was organised by the European Platform for Democratic Elections. Election experts from GOLOS Russia – Andrej Buzin, Arkadi Lubarev and Roman Udot hold lectures on mathematical statistical analysis of election results and on election systems. Other participants of the summer school were from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

 

 

 

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ISFED (Georgia) publishes its fifth report on the pre-election campaign

During the reporting period ISFED was actively monitoring the course of pre-election campaigning in all election precincts.

 

ISFED has found particular growth of the pre-election campaign in intensity during the period from September 8, 2013, through October 6, 2013. Varioius political parties and candidates held 253 public meetings, which is approximately three times more than the number of public meetings held over the last month.

 

During the reporting period ISFED identified five acts of pressure, including four by members of the coalition Georgian Dream against members of the administration and one by supporter of the candidate of the Democratic Movement – United Georgia against socially vulnerable population in villages of Pankisi Gorge, who were forced to attend pre-election meeting.

 

We also found one case that involved physical assault on political grounds against a member of the Democratic Movement – United Georgia, as well as one alleged pressure against a supporter of the United National Movement.

 

During the reporting period we found three cases of obstruction of pre-election campaigning. In Zugdidi, Tbilisi and the village of Asureti, Tetritskaro Municipality, pre-election campaigning by Davit Bakradze, UNM’s presidential candidate was obstructed.

 

We also found one case that involved pre-election campaigning at an improper venue – in the building of a public school in the village of Zani Community, Senaki District.

 

Similar to the previous reporting period, use of state resources remained an issue. ISFED found four cases that involved use of state resources in favor of the coalition Georgian Dream’s presidential candidate and one in favor of the United National Movement’s presidential candidate.

 

Notwithstanding the recommendation adopted by the Inter-Agency Task Force, staff changes in self-government authorities continued. In particular, during the reporting period Gamgebelis were replaced in 5 municipalities, Sakrebulo Chairperson was dismissed in 1 municipality and one Mayor resigned.

 

ISFED was also monitoring operations of the Central Election Commission and believes that the CEC should abolish prior to the presidential elections or comprehensively revise the 2012 resolution about photo and video shooting at election precincts on the Polling Day.

 

During the reporting period the Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections published a report of its activities. Notably, the report did not include a number of problematic issues presented by ISFED to the IATF.

 

The full report is available here: PDF (EN)  |  PDF (GE)

EPDE member EMDS (AZ) regrets misleading opinions on independent observers

Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) regrets political statements made by state officials on opinions of domestic and international organizations about the Presidential Election and calls the government to demonstrate political will to conduct objective and comprehensive investigation of complaints and reports of violations occurred on the Election Day received by the Central Election Commission (CEC) and Constituency Election Commissions.

 

The EMDS regretfully notes that the Preliminary Statement released by the joint Observation Mission the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE and the Parliament Assembly of the OSCE was reacted with protest by Azerbaijan Officials and was not employed to evaluate the violations on the Election Day.

 

The EMDS also notes that news stating that “The EMDS recognizes the results of Election” published on various media outlets and web-portals, including APA and Trend agencies, Space, Xazar TVs, New Musavat, “525” newspapers do not reflect the reality. This kind of false information are directed to defame impartiality and professionalism of EMDS and citizens who cooperate with the organization. The EMDS stresses that monitoring conducted by the organizations under the auspices of the authority, including statement on election observation of the Election Day released by West-Resource Support to Civil Society Development Public Union have no association with EMDS and its position.

 

EMDS notes with concerns that according to reports received on the Election Day, violation of law occurred in 91 percent of polling stations observed. These violations include intervening in the secrecy of voting, voting by one person on behalf of others, ballot stuffing, multiple voting, numerous cases of voting by persons whose name were not on voters list, inaccurate reflection of results of election on the protocol, pressure against observers and voters, and intervention in the election process by unauthorized person.

 

It should be noted that as a professional election monitoring organization, EMDS election observation does not reflect assessment of voting results, but include evaluation of legal quality of the process.

 

EMDS conducted Statistically Based Observation (SBO) of the Election Day of the 9 October 2013 Presidential Elections in cooperation with 794 non-partisan observers reporting on layout of polling stations, voting and vote tabulation. SBO methodology is scientific approach based on nationally representative sample allowing for accurate, operative and impartial assessment of voting and vote tabulation against domestic legislation and international standards. The sample includes 769 polling stations from all 125 election constituencies covering 15% of all polling stations in the country.

 

The statement as PDF (EN)

EPDE concerned about EP and PACE statement on presidential election in Azerbaijan

Source: News Agency "Trend"

 

Berlin, 14 October 2013: European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) is seriously concerned about the findings and conclusions made by the delegations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the European Parliament (EP) after the observation of the Presidential elections in Azerbaijan on 9 October 2013. The joint statement of the mission headed by Robert Walter (UK, PACE) and Pino Arlacchi (Italy, EP) declared that "on election day we have observed a free, fair and transparent election process". The statement further declared that the delegation members did not witness any evidence of intimidation against voters and that "electoral procedures have been carried out in a professional and peaceful way".

 

This declaration stands in sharp contrast to the findings of domestic election observers and to the observations of the OSCE/ODIHR mission.

 

EPDE member "Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre" (EMDS, Azerbaijan) has revealed multiple voting in 38% of the observed polling stations, ballot-box stuffing in 32% of polling stations, organized group voting in 39% of polling stations and voters being instructed to vote for a specific candidate in 37% of polling stations. The OSCE/ODIHR observers noted frequent procedural shortcomings on election day: In 12% of observations the voting process was assessed negatively. "Overwhelmingly negative" was the assessment of the vote count procedures by the OSCE/ODIHR observers: 58% of the polling stations visited performed bad or very bad during vote count.

 

It is difficult to understand how the two delegations of EP and PACE figuring up to a total of 40 persons (7 MEPs and 33 members of PACE) could not take notice of any of the systematic and massive manipulations that occurred in such a significant part of the polling stations all over Azerbaijan.  It is also astonishing that the delegations did not take into account the environment of human rights abuse and intimidation in which the election took place, an environment both Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and the European Union repeatedly has criticized.

 

The credibility of the election observation missions of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament is affected by the joint statement as it has been published after the presidential elections in Azerbaijan. The reputation of both institutions - watch guards for European democratic values - is endangered both in the perception of the international democratic community and, especially, in the eyes of voters in Azerbaijan who are deprived the right to free and fair elections.

 

The joint statement made by the PACE and EP delegations forcefully underlines the need for domestic election observation as well as trained, impartial international election observers.

 

EPDE asks both missions to reveal how the mission members were selected, how the mission members have been trained and instructed and according to which methodology the mission has collected data. EPDE calls both on the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament to ensure that their election observation missions will meet standards of international election observation in the future.

 

The statement as PDF

EPDE Member EMDS (Azerbaijan) Preliminary Report on Presidential Elections in Azerbaijan

EMDS noted few violations during the opening of polling stations on the Election Day. However, the voting process was marred with serious violations (multiple voting, bringing voters to polling stations in groups, voters whose name are not on the list allowed to vote and ballot-box stuffing) similar to ones occurred in previous elections. Observers cooperating with EMDS report that in more than 100 polling stations voting results were not accurately reflected on the protocol and copy of protocols were not displayed in front of building.

 

Observation of the Election Day was carried out in 769 polling randomly selected polling stations across the country through Statistically Based Observation. Along with representatives of candidates, observers, who protested against occurred violations and requested to observe the process of vote counting, also faced serious pressure on the Election Day.

 

EMDS believes that political environment prior to the election and violations recorded during all stages of the election led to lack of equal competition opportunities and the 9 October 2013 Presidential Elections was marred with violation of national legislation of the Republic of Azerbaijan and international standards, therefore cannot be considered free and democratic.

 

The full report is available here: PDF (EN)

EPDE Member EMDS (Azerbaijan) issues second Interim Report on the Pre-election Campaign

EMDS and ICV notes with regret that the government failed to demonstrate progress in democratization of political environment, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association during the election campaigning period.

 

The organizations welcome the significant increase of political interest, political discussions and public interest in overall election process during the 9 October 2013 Presidential Elections in comparison with 2008 presidential elections. However, none of the TV companies operating in the country offered airtime to candidates and their representatives to present their election platforms, as well as to discuss local and national level issues. With the exception of the Public TV, positions and views of presidential candidates were not covered by any TV company.

 

The last two stages of the upcoming presidential election were accompanied with pressure against socio-political activists, persecution and intimidation of opposition members, including members of National Council of Democratic Forces. Political persecutions and arrests started in early 2013, continued throughout the election period. Social media activists and bloggers were detained by police number of times, while journalist Parviz Hashimli was arrested.

 

Long-term observers also noted abuse of administrative resources in organizing meeting with voters for presidential candidates Ilham Aliyev, Gudrat Hasanguliyev and Hafiz Hajiyev by local executive authorities, while Jamil Hasanli and Igbal Agazade's meetings with voters were interfered and prevented by police.

 

Overall, election campaigning materials were destroyed in 28 percent of monitored 97 election constituencies, while in 34 percent of monitored constituencies voters were forcibly brought to meetings with pro-governmental candidates by local executive authorities. 53 percent of observed constituencies did not have suitable indoor and outdoor venues for holding meetings and other mass assemblies.

 

EMDS and ICV believe that reduction of election period as result of amendments to the Election Code made in 2008 and 2010 created technical obstacles to functioning of election commissions, election blocs and candidates, as well as observers.

 

EMDS and ICV hope that the in order to ensure voting and vote tabulation process in line with requirements of law and to avoid unauthorized intervention in the electoral processes, state bodies, election commissions, presidential candidates and their parties, public organizations and media will put forth necessary efforts.

 

The full report is available here: PDF (EN)  |  PDF (AZ)

OSCE Human Dimensions Implementation Meeting (HDIM) in Warsaw

Warsaw, 1 October 2013: Lene Wetteland, NHC, Stefanie Schiffer, European Exchange and Lilia Shibanova, GOLOS attended the election discussions on the ODIHR's Human Dimension Meeting in Warsaw on 1st October. NHC made a strong statement in favor of citizens' election observation in the OSCE region. Lilia Shibanova, GOLOS, attracted the attention to the difficult situation of citizens' election observation in the Russian Federation, Stefanie Schiffer presented the EPDE as a new initiative in the field of citizens' election observation in Europe.

 

Read the statement here.

ISFED fourth interim report on Presidential Elections in georgia, 27 October 2013

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy presents fourth interim report of pre-election monitoring for October 27, 2013 presidential elections. The reporting period reflects violations identified during the period from August 20 through September 8, 2013.

 

“We have found two cases that involved physical assault and one case that involved pressure on political grounds. We identified three facts that involved use of state resources. ISFED considers transferring of the agency and its material base owned by the Prime Minister’s family to the management of Info 9 free of charge as possible vote buying,”- says Nino Lomjaria, Executive Director of ISFED.

 

The report also covers the developments in local self-government agencies. Total of 10 Gamgebelis have been replaced, including 7 who resigned for personal reasons, one arrested and two dismissed by Sakrebulo. Notably, majority of changes occurred amid pressure and confrontation.

 

ISFED believes that during the reporting period the CEC refused to register Ms. Salome Zourabishvili as a presidential candidate based on wrongful interpretation of Constitutional norms.

 

ISFED welcomes that the Inter Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections took into account our recommendations; however, it did not react to some of the recommendations presented by us.

 

“ISFED urges public servants once more to refrain from agitation during working hours, and state officials not to allow forcing employees of state agencies to participate in pre-election campaigns. We urge the Prime Minister to refrain from any activities that may be perceived as vote buying. We would like to address the public broadcaster’s management and the board of trustees [with a recommendation] to ensure political pluralism during airtime and objective coverage of developments,” – says Nino Lomjaria.

 

In the process of monitoring ISFED is guided by international standards for monitoring organizations, including the Declaration of Global Principles of Non-Partisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizens.

 

Information about election violations is available at: http://electionsportal.ge

 

The report as PDF is available here (EN) and here (GE).

EPDE Member EMDS (Azerbaijan) issues first Report about Nomination and Registration of Candidates of Presidential Elections in Azerbaijan

 

Baku, 16 September 2013:

 

Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) and Volunteers International Cooperation Public Union (VIC) conducted long term observation of the first stage of the 9 October 2013 Presidential Elections (10 August – 14 September) of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The monitoring of this stage, which included the pre-election environment and process of nomination and registration of candidates, was carried out in 89 election constituencies and nationwide. Information reflected in this report is collected from 32 long-term observers, presidential candidates and their campaign headquarters, members of election commissions and voters and verified by both organizations.

 

Despite some technical improvements in the process of preparation to the elections, observers noted abuse of administrative resources and lack of improvement with regard to pre-election environment. EMDS and VIC note with concern that legal framework stipulated by the current Election Code and situation of political freedoms prior to the elections, particularly freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, create more restricted pre-election environment in comparison with previous elections.

 

The process of nomination and registration of candidates started on 10 August and completed on 9 September. According to the CEC’s information for 13 September, 21 persons received signature collection forms and 14 of them submitted forms. 10 candidates submitting signature collection forms were registered as presidential candidate by the CEC, while 4 persons were refused registration.

 

During the process of signature collection in favor of presidential candidates, violations occurred in previous elections were recorded again. The organizations received credible information about abuse of administrative resources, mainly in favor of candidate of ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP).

 

Moreover, Identification Documents (IDs) of citizens working at organizations funded from state budget were collected and used for signature collection in favor of certain candidates against citizens’ will.

 

Furthermore, in some cases, media, observers, presidential candidates and their authorized representatives were denied access to the process of verification of collected signatures at the CEC. EMDS and VIC note with regret that participation of candidates and their representative were not ensured during the verification process of collected signatures in cases of Ilgar Mammadov, Sardar Mammadov, Ahmad Oruj and Ali Aliyev.

 

Observers also documented repeated violations of attendance and transparency in functioning of Precinct and Constituency Election Commissions.

 

The full report is available here:

 

PDF (English) PDF (Azerbaycan)

EPDE Member Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) issues Press release of the Norwegian Parliamentary Elections 9 September 2013

Foto: Tom Henning Bratlie

 

PRESS RELEASE:

Norwegian Parliamentary Elections 9 September 2013

Fair elections with potential for improvement

Summary of main impressions from the election observers:

 

Overview

 

Oslo, 10 September 2013: First of all, the observers would like to express great gratitude for the hospitality that we were met with in all the municipalities we visited, and to those who have provided us with seminars and information during our training in Oslo. This has contributed to making the election observation in Norway a very special experience.

 

- Ultimately, it is not rules and control mechanism that define whether or not an election is democratic. Participation, commitment, responsibility and mutual trust by the citizens are crucial, the observers say on the day after the election.

 

- We are impressed with the high standard of the Norwegian democracy. Many of us have witnessed sincere democratic elections for the first time.

 

The voting took place in peace and order and those involved in the administration of the election showed a high degree of competence and professionalism.

 

We found well-equipped and well-organized polling stations without technical deficiencies that decreased the efficiency or restricted the voting process.

 

The voter’s lists, whether on paper or electronically, were of high quality and we observed no problems in connection with the public register.

 

The election laws in Norway are simple compared to what the observers are used to. However, we know from our own experience that more detailed rules are no guarantee for democratic elections.

 

Concrete observations made on Election Day:

 

The observers have visited approximately 140 polling stations, distributed over the Oslo-area, Stavanger, Bergen, Tynset, Bodø, Tromsø and Kirkenes, as well as Eidsvoll, Hole, Drammen and Øvre and Nedre Eiker and several others. The observers have been deployed in teams of two, together with at least one assistant who has been helping with technical issues and translation. Everyone received an introduction to the Norwegian rules for election procedures in advance, and at the same time they used their own experience from evaluation of elections in their own and other countries.

 

Additionally, everyone possesses knowledge of the prevailing international electoral standards through several years of international election observation.

 

All observers have filled out forms in each of the polling stations, something that presents a systematic picture of the observations made. Although the selection is too small to produce a result of statistical value the observations should be considered an excerpt of the whole picture. Still, it should be emphasized that we have visited municipalities of different profiles, so that both small and large municipalities, central areas and districts have been covered.

 

In the following we draw your attention to these particular findings from the observation:

 

  • We would like to comment on the security of votes. In many places the ballot boxes were not sealed. Sealing of ballot boxes is important in order to ensure that no ballots are touched before the counting takes place. It is also important that observers and voters can observe that the ballot boxes being sealed. We have also seen how full ballot boxes were emptied throughout the election day and that boxes were stored overnight. Clear and consistent rules for safe handling of votes should be stated in both by law and in instructions.

 

  • The observers have questioned the lack of ban against election campaigning and handing out of voters’ lists by polling station. Several voters stated they were confused by list bearers and the observers recommend regulating this practice if only a few parties continue to do this. For instance, rules on the distance to the polling station should be set.

 

  • Voters were identified according to the intention following the changes in the electoral code. In all the polling stations voters brought valid documents of identification, with very few exceptions. No violations of the rule of voter identification were observed.

 

  • Disabled voters had satisfactory conditions everywhere observed.

 

  • The voting card were folded and stamped according to the rules in all cases observed.

 

  • Some cases of voters who have entered the voting booth together have been reported. This violates both the principle of the secrecy of the vote, as well as the principle that the voters should vote on an individual basis. However, election staff was very intent on preventing this happening. 

 

  • The observers observed 12 different voting counts last evening and night. The counting was done very well and according to the rules provided. However, it was reported in some cases that the routines for securing accuracy of the final result were not satisfactory. In five cases smaller discrepancies between the number of crosses on the list and the actual number of voting cards were observed. The main reasons are not known, but it could be because voters that have voted incorrectly were given access to vote again, or inaccuracy in administering the crosses on the list. Some were in a rush and skipped certain parts of the procedure. This contributes to mistakes and inaccuracies, and is not acceptable.

 

Background:

 

The observation of the Parliamentary Election in Norway is a project by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  This is the third time we conduct this type of election observation. Previously, we observed the election in 2005 and 2009. We invited 34 observers from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

 

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is a member of the European Platform for Democracy Election (EPDE), a newly founded network of NGOs conducting election observation with the aim of improving elections in their home countries. In Norway, the observers from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan were represented by members of the network. This is the first time the of the EPDE network were able to gather so many members for an election observation.

 

For further information:

 

Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, +47 95 75 33 50

 

Berit Lindeman, Head of Information/Senior Advisor, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, +47 90 93 33 79                   

 

Anders Nielsen, Information Advisor, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee +47 408 44 709

 

The full press release is available here: PDF (english)

 

GOLOS Press Release on regional and local elections in Russia: Election Day Proceedings

 

Moscow, 9 September 2013: 8 September 2013 became the first "Single Voting Day", transferred to the second Sunday of September instead of two Single Voting Days, previously (since January 1, 2006) held in March and October.

 

According to the CEC, 6825 elections and referenda were scheduled, including elections of 8 heads of the regional centers, 16 deputies of the regional parliaments, 8 heads of the administrative centers of the regions, 12 representative bodies of the administrative centers of the regions.

 

Representatives of the Movement "GOLOS" observed the voting, vote counting and the tabulation of the voting results at the polling stations in Ivanovo, Vladimir, Volgograd, Voronezh, Novgorod, Rostov, Ryazan, Tver, Kaliningrad, Kirov, Kostroma, Lipetsk, Saratov regions, Republics of Adygea, Bashkortostan, Khakassia, Kalmykia, Karelia, the Vladivostok, Yekaterinburg, Moscow and Togliatti. At the polling stations of the capital of Moscow more than 8,000 representatives of the Moscow alliance of observers, including several hundred correspondents of Golos were present.

 

Moscow mayor elections

 

According to the results gained by Golos in more than fifty percent of the polling stations in Moscow, second round of the elections would be necessary to appoint the winner. According to Golos, the acting mayor Sobyanin received 49,5 % of the votes. However, the official results presented by the election commissions show Sobyanin winning in the first round gaining 51,4 % of the votes.

 

In the polling stations where observers were present the records of Golos and the official results are identical. Crucial for the results which make Sobyanin the winner in the first round are those presented by the election commission where no election observers were present. This raise concerns over the legitimacy of the elections in Moscow.

 

There is a need for a public investigation to establish the true election results since violations of the law have been detected by Golos and the alliance of civic observers.

 

In the polling stations where Golos’ observers were present, two measures that seemed to be used to influence the result by using the administrative resources were identified:

 

- Golos observed an increased percentage of mobile voting (5%) which could influence the voting results by getting votes of the voters who depends on social benefits and therefore is expected to be more loyal to the current regime

- There was a shortage of absentee voting certificates which made it impossible for many observers and members of commission to vote in their home polling station, which is beneficial for the incumbent.

 

Voting in the regions

 

The same kind of irregularities and methods of falsifications as before the elections in 2011 were recorded in the regions. The manipulations affected all stages of the electoral process from the registration of the candidates until the counting of the votes. This shows that the regional authorities were no longer concerned about the public control. This obvious regress is disappointing since some improvements were noticed in 2012.

 

The contribution of the civil society to fair elections.

 

The examples of Moscow and Yekaterinburg demonstrate that political competitiveness increases public interest and that the public engagement is a crucial factor to overcome authorities’ attempts to distort the public opinion. It is obvious that there were attempts of th authorities to make elections in Moscow free and fair: candidates were allowed to participate and the election commissions were instructed to avoid direct falsifications. This is a result of the fact they are aware that they act under public scrutiny in Moscow. In Yekaterinburg, thanks to a broad public participation in the election observation, attempts of the electoral commission not to recognize the true results of the vote were prevented, which led to the victory of the opposition candidate.

 

GOLOS 2nd report on regional and local elections in Russia: Election Campaign

 

русская версия: PDF     |     deutsche Version: PDF

 

Summary

In a number of cases, the Russian Federation’s Central Election Commission overturned the decisions of lower election commissions to refuse to certify and register party lists and candidates for the regional elections. However, these examples represent only a small proportion of the cases among numerous instances of non-admission of parties and candidates for elections.

 

The most politically important complaint, relating to the restoration of registration of the Citizens’ Platform party list in the elections to the Yaroslavl Oblast Duma, was dismissed by a court. Furthermore, the election commission of Khakassia refused to register the RPR-PARNAS list.

 

The elections of heads of key municipalities that remain one of the most problematic parts of the Russian elections.The amount of candidates who have been „filtered out“  at the registration stage was 21 %. The rate of „filtering out“ of self-nominated candidates reached 70 %.

 

As far as the election campaigning stage is concerned, low voter turnout is put at stake in some regions. It allows mobilizing the largely administratively dependent electorate with the simultaneous use of technologies to discredit alternative parties and candidates.

 

Early election campaigning was reported throughout the observed period: a significant part of the campaign took place even before its official launch and beyond the legal framework outlined by the electoral legislation.

 

The main strategies used by candidates representing the current regime are both early and indirect campaigning under the guise of covering the professional activities of candidates.

 

Massive indirect campaigning is often accompanied by the minimization of formal campaigning and the growing number of bans on providing candidates and parties with both paid and free broadcast time and newspaper space in the media.

 

The full report is available here: PDF

EPDE Member ISFED - Georgia issues THIRD Report of the Pre - Election - Monitoring

 

Tblisi, 2 September 2013: EPDE Member International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) presents third pre-election monitoring report for the October 27, 2013, presidential elections.The report covers the period from August 5 through August 20, 2013.

 

According to ISFED, from the start of the pre-election campaign there have been no massive violations of election laws; rather, only a few cases have been reported. In its third report ISFED underlines problematic issues regarding media environment and several other important issues. The reporting period is assessed as rather peaceful since unlike the previous reporting period, no violent actions have taken place. Below are the conclusions regarding the third reporting period.

 

Media Environment

 

Among the trends revealed during the reporting period, a number of issues related to media environment have been particularly problematic. Regional newspaper Guriis Moambe accused Municipality Gamgebeli of exerting pressure, while one of the owners of Maestro TV, Mamuka Ghlonti, alleged political harassment by a certain group of the authorities. The Prime Minister made an unexpected decision to close down Channel 9 TV and the news agency Info 9 owned by his family.

 

I. The authorities issued a notice about termination of usufruct for two offices of Guriis Moambe newspaper. Therefore, the newspaper is now forced to vacate offices in a month. ISFED believes that Sakrebulo’s notice fails to specify the “special state needs” that are involved, which would serve as grounds for unilateral suspension of agreement. Considering that activities of media outlet known for its criticism of the authorities are at stake, ISFED believes that Sakrebulo should present a convincing justification for the usufruct based on special state or public needs.

 

II. One of the founders of Maestro TV, Mamuka Ghlonti, made a public statement alleging political harassment by a certain group of the authorities. In a TV interview he noted that “[the harassment] has been especially evident after this group [of the authorities] realized that Maestro TV does not follow any demands of the authorities and will continue to be an independent player like before. “

 

III. The PM’s decision to close down Channel 9 TV and news agency Info 9 owned by his family was met with mixed reactions. On the one hand ISFED welcomes the PM’s decision, as he willingly abandoned an opportunity to use media resources in favor of the ruling party candidate during pre-election period. On the other hand, closing of a TV channel in pre-election period, which had been systematically hosting political discussions during its talk-shows and news programs, will have an adverse impact on awareness of voters and facilitation of political discussions.

 

Administrative Resources

 

During the reporting period various state agencies urged their employees to refrain from abusing state resources and issued corresponding instructions. This is indeed a positive development.

 

On August 19, 2013, the president’s administration reported that the president is planning a large-scale pardoning. Pre-election use of any such legal mechanism available to the president is indicative of an attempt to please voters and use state resources for pre-election purposes.

 

Suspicions about abuse of the state resources are founded on the fact that the large-scale pardoning announced by the president contradicts his own zero tolerance policy announced on February 14, 2006. Further, this is the first time such initiative will be realized during his presidency.

 

Intimidation/Threatening

 

Three acts of pressure against representatives of local self-government have been reported. These incidents occurred in Kaspi, Aspindza and Akhmeta municipalities, including threats made by Aspindza Gamgebeli against village trustees suggesting crime.

 

Vote Buying

 

The Prime Minister celebrated Shuamtoba with local population. During the celebration he gave a diamond ring to newlyweds, the Gundaladzes, as a gift, which ISFED believes is suggestive of vote buying. ISFED applied to the State Audit Office and the office of the prosecutor of Georgia, urging them to launch an immediate probe and take appropriate further actions.

 

Election Administration

 

During the reporting period the CEC chairperson Zurab Kharatishvili unexpectedly resigned, citing political reasons. He stated that he plans to get engaged in active political work. Following the resignation there has been an urgent need to appoint new chairperson. Election laws and the existing political circumstances have engendered the situation in which the NGO sector and two political forces participate in selection of the new CEC chairperson, which is commendable. CEC chairperson elected under these circumstances will enjoy a higher level of trust from all interested parties, which is greatly important for improving the election processes. NGOs have nominated their own candidate for the position. ISFED welcomes the president’s statements about his prior endorsement of the candidacy nominated by the non-governmental sector.

 

Inter-Agency Task-Force

 

During the reporting period first meeting of inter-agency task-force (IATF) was held under the leadership of the Minister of Justice. ISFED raised a number of problems during the meeting. The IATF has not yet elaborated any specific recommendations on how to address these problems.

 

 

The full report is available here:

 

PDF (English) |  PDF (Georgian)

 

GOLOS 1st report on regional and local elections in Russia

 

The following elections are scheduled to take place in Russia on 8 September 2013: direct elections for the heads of administration in eight regions, 16 regional parliament elections, eight direct elections for heads of regional administrative centres and 12 local parliament elections in the regional administrative centres. As well as the elections in the regional capitals, 2309 other municipalities will see their head of administration elected and 3447 municipalities are holding local council elections.

 

The campaign for the regional and local elections on 8 September 2013 began in an uneasy political atmosphere. The popularity of the party in power is shrinking as a result of numerous acts of corruption being exposed. For this reason, the government is, ahead of the elections, resorting to the repression of civil society activists, of all members of the unofficial opposition and of practically the entire non-commercial sector. Making use of a range of repressive laws, such as the law on demonstrations, the law on so-called “espionage activities”, the law on “foreign agents”, the law forbidding work which is financed by American donors and the libel law, the government is aiming to intimidate civil society activists and human rights defenders to the greatest extent possible and to discredit them in the eyes of the public.

 

The introduction of these repressive laws has been followed by numerous instances of prosecution of civil society activists, state investigations into the legality of non-commercial organisations and court proceedings targeting non-commercial organisations.

 

The government has made maximum use of the state propaganda machine to carry out a comprehensive campaign of discreditation against practically all political leaders of the opposition and against non-commercial organisations who receive funding from international sources; this has contributed to the portrayal of foreign donors as enemies. The largest network of domestic election observers, the association GOLOS, was closed shortly before the start of the election process following a dubious court decision.

 

The new party law contains a liberalisation of the rules concerning the registration of candidates who are put forward by political parties. Compared to previous local elections, this has led to a larger number of parties taking part in the 2013 elections. Although the overall competitive nature of the elections has increased, many local opposition leaders have not been registered as candidates.

 

There has been a significant withdrawal of representatives of the regional and local elite from almost all established parties, i.e. from the parties represented in the State Duma. This can primarily be seen as a real threat to the position of the party “United Russia”.

 

This has drawn a reaction: The pressure has been upped on those candidates and candidate lists of “alternative” parties who have a realistic chance of election.

 

The full report is available here:

 

PDF (English)   |   PDF (Russian)   |   PDF (German)

EPDE Member ISFED - Georgia issues SECOND Report of the Pre - Election - Monitoring

Tblisi,12 August 2013: EPDE Member International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) presents second pre-election monitoring report for the October 27, 2013, presidential elections. The monitoring covers the period from July 20 through August 4, 2013.

 

The reporting period was marked by a relatively active pre-election campaign; however, acts of violence against political opponents during primaries of the United National Movement (UNM) have also been reported. The reporting period was also marked with individual cases of abuse of state resources, as well as agitation by unauthorized individuals (one case) and obstruction with the work of a representative of monitoring organization (two cases).

 

Registration of presidential candidates and initiative groups with the Central Elections Commission (CEC) is now underway. Registration of holders of dual citizenship has proven to be most problematic.

 

Please see the full report here.

EPDE and its member Golos Start Observing the Local Elections, 8 September 2013

On 8 September 2013 the local elections will take place in Russia. The EPDE and its Russian member GOLOS start the long-term observation and reporting on the conduct of the elections. Overall 6825 regional elections and referenda will be conducted on the single voting day introduced by the State Duma one year ago. 8 heads of the regions, amongst them the mayor of Moscow, 16 regional parliaments and other regional assemblies will be elected.

 

Please follow the news and reports posted on our website here and our facebook here!

 

Please see also the new website of GOLOS: http://golosinfo.org/

EPDE meets with ODIHR Director Lenarcic in Warsaw

Warsaw, 17 June 2013: EPDE members Lilia Shibanova, GOLOS, Ewa Kulik, Stefan Batory Foundation, Stefanie Schiffer, EA and Vladimir Labkovich, HR Centre Viasna met in Warsaw for the presentation of EPDE with ODIHR director Janez Lenarcic and staff members of ODIHR's election and human rights departments. EPDE and ODIHR agreed to develop various forms of cooperation between ODIHR's international election observation missions and civic election observation as conducted by EPDE members. The participants agreed that EPDE's civic election observation is an important complementation to international election observation missions and that regular exchange of opinions, informations and reports between the intergovernmental and the civic observation structures will be established.

EPDE concerned about the Postponement of Local Elections in Kyiv