Georgia

CEC of Georgia to reconsider accreditation of Belarusian CEC members as election observers

 We, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) and European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) are concerned about the decision of the Central Election Commission of Georgia to register Galina Mkrtchyan and Olesya Urbanovich, representatives of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Belarus, as international observers for the upcoming local elections in Georgia. We urge Georgia’s election administration to revoke the observers’ accreditation of Ms. Mkrtchyan and Ms. Urbanovich who, as representatives of Belarus’ uncompromisingly repressive regime, were directly involved in mass falsifications of the election results during the recent presidential elections in Belarus.

We remind the election administration of Georgia that since 1996, none of the elections held in the Republic of Belarus were neither recognized by the OSCE-ODIHR nor by the domestic independent election observers as complying with the Belarusian law and international standards for holding democratic elections. The Belarusian Central Election Commission, led by its Chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshina, managed the fraudulent August 9 presidential elections in 2020 which, according to evidence provided by domestic independent observers, were marred by a myriad of irregularities, including barring opposition candidates, denying observers’ access to the polls, and certifying inaccurate vote tallies. In order to cover-up the election fraud, the international OSCE-ODIHR observers were not allowed to establish an observation mission.

Falsification of voting results sparked massive public protests across Belarus, which were met with violent police crackdowns. Thousands of peaceful protesters, including hundreds of journalists and members of civil society organizations were persecuted and detained. Among almost 700 political prisoners are seven members of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”, an EPDE founding member organization, including its head Ales Bialiacki who holds the Vaclav-Havel-Human Rights Award of the Council of Europe. HRC Viasna together with another EPDE founding member, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, provided Belarusians and the international community with evidence of electoral fraud in Belarus during several electoral campaigns in the past years. Their joint initiative “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” enjoys a high international reputation and support. In connection to the recent fraudulent elections in Belarus, now the Belarusian Helsinki Committee faces threats of liquidation by the Supreme Court, based on fabricated “evidence” provided by the Ministry of Justice. 

Notably, the notorious chairperson of the Belarusian CEC, Yarmoshina, is considered to be directly responsible for forcing the major opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to film a video address, calling on Belarusians to respect the falsified official results of the presidential elections and end the protests. Yarmoshina, as well as all other 11 members of the Belarusian CEC, have been subsequently included in the sanctions lists of the European Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom for misconduct of the 2020 presidential electoral process, its non-compliance with basic international standards of fairness and transparency, and the falsification of election results.

Regrettably, through the recent suspension of its participation in the Eastern Partnership initiative of the European Union, Belarusian authorities have clearly signaled that they are not keen to promote political association and economic integration with the European Union based on democratic standards.   

Considering these circumstances, registering representatives of the CEC of Belarus to observe and assess the conduct of the upcoming local elections in Georgia is unacceptable and, in fact, would be regarded as approval by Georgian institutions, primarily the CEC of Georgia, of practices which directly contravene the principles of democratic elections.[1]

We urge Georgia’s election administration to reconsider the decision to accredit Ms. Mkrtchyan and Ms. Urbanovich as international observers. This would contribute to the integrity of the elections in Georgia and be an important sign of respect for the dignity and free will of the people of Belarus, who are striving for a democratic future of their country. 

Signed by

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)

European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE)

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References

[1] According to Georgian legislation, Article 39(5)th of the election code of Georgia “international observer organization may be a representative of another country, an organization registered in another country or an international organization, a constituent document/Statute of which provides for monitoring of the elections and/or protection of human rights and the activity of which is based on the following internationally recognized principles: a) respect for the legislation, sovereignty of Georgia and international human rights norms; b) abstaining from interfering with the election process; c) political impartiality; d) financial independence from the participants of the election process and transparency of funding sources; e) implementation of the provisions recognized by the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.”

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