Evaluation of the Pre-Election Environment of the 2018 Presidential Election
On August 1, the President of Georgia set October 28 as the date of the regular presidential election. Official election campaign began on August 28, sixty days prior, and became more intensive and strained as Election Day approached.
The election campaign was dominated by electoral subjects exchanging accusations and engaging in campaigning against one another. This election was marked with an obvious trend of unprecedented coordinated attacks on domestic observer organizations by officials of the government and the ruling party, coupled with a smear campaign on social media. With regard to effects of social media on the electoral environment, attempts to discredit major presidential candidates and political parties using organized pages and sponsored content on Facebook was a challenge. As the intensity of the election campaign grew, observer organizations detected instances of abuse of administrative resources and intimidation/harassment, which are damaging to equal electoral environment. No large-scale cases of violence and physical confrontation took place, however attempts to disrupt campaign turned into confrontation in some cases.
The election period was accompanied by release of compromising recordings, including the much-publicized recordings related to Iberia TV and Omega Group cases, accusing acting and former high-level officials of the government of business harassment, possible corrupt deals and other crimes. The recordings also contained conversations about possible illegal scheme of funding of the ruling party for elections. These accusations triggered serious doubts about elite corruption and informal governance in the country.
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