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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: