Concrete measures should be taken to reduce pandemic risks in parliamentary elections
The undersigned organizations are responding to the current severe epidemiological situation in Georgia. We would like to express our utmost concern and sorrow for the people who are infected and have passed away from the coronavirus. Along with the soaring infection rate, it seems the government is finding it more difficult to cope with the crisis. The parliamentary elections are to be held in two weeks in these circumstances. The current situation is as follows:
- It will be impossible to avoid the mass gathering of people during the pre-election period and on Election Day. In spite of the fact that numerous recommendations were issued against the spread of the coronavirus, it is unfortunate that a lot of people did not follow the rules for wearing masks or social distancing. This naturally poses a lot of risks for the spread of the virus;
- Political parties are continuing their pre-election campaign, however several of them have significantly changed their pre-election activities in response to the outbreak of the virus and some have even restricted their activities altogether. The number of so-called door-to-door campaigning has decreased and some political parties abstain from holding mass gatherings;
- An epidemiological situation such as the current one can have an effect on the voters, who might choose to avoid participating in pre-election gatherings;
- The worsening of the epidemiological situation might significantly decrease the turnout of voters during Election Day. This is particularly true for people who are in a high-risk group;
- As of today, a number of political leaders have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. This has an effect on the activities of the party, both in the pre-election period as well on the election day;
- Observing missions and political parties will have serious challenges in mobilizing their representatives and election observers;
- The election administration is also facing a serious challenge as thousands of their staff will have to follow protective measures in a nearly 24-hour shift on the election days in commissions or with the mobile ballot box, as well as with the voters in quarantine. This naturally raises questions about the risks to their health, as well as their prospective productivity.
- If the elections are held, it will be very difficult for observing organizations to monitor the voting process by citizens who are in quarantine zones or in self-isolation.
- As covid-related issues are at the forefront of public discussions, political parties are unable to focus on their party program priorities.
- It is unfortunate that a certain segment of the population does not believe in the coronavirus or is not taking it seriously. Therefore, it is possible that they will flaunt the necessary protective measures against the spread of the virus.
With these challenges in mind, it is important for the Government of Georgia to take decisions with maximum transparency related to overcoming the covid crisis and, most importantly, to provide specific information to the public on what decisions it is planning to make in different scenarios that may unfold during the crisis. To this end, it is important to:
To expand the Crisis Council, which should allow all important actors (including political parties, NGO sector and Public Defender) related to the elections to participate;
To develop the plan for managing the coronavirus outbreak with various scenarios of its spread rate;
It is important to define the rate and severity of the epidemic and the number of people infected by the coronavirus that would necessitate the declaration of a state of emergency, postponing of elections and imposing of restrictions.
We, the undersigned organizations, do not consider that making a choice between the protection of public health and the democratic development of the country is the proper way to balance interests. Therefore, the government should take all measures, with the maximum participation of public groups, to ensure that all decisions are taken with the utmost protective measures and transparent procedures.
- Transparency International Georgia (TIG)
- Georgian Democracy Initiative (GDI)
- International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
- Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF)
- Society and Banks
- Media Development Foundation (MDF)
- Human Rights Center (HRIDC)
- In Depth Reporting and Economic analysis Center
- Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI)
- UN Association of Georgia
- Human rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)