The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) monitored the October 30, 2021 Municipal election runoffs in eight municipalities, including five self-governing cities (Tbilisi, Rustavi, Batumi, Poti and Kutaisi) and 3 self-governing communities (Zugdidi, Ozurgeti and Telavi).* ISFED’s election day observation mission in these municipalities consisted of 15 mobile groups, 542 observers deployed at polling stations and 29 observers deployed at district election commissions. In the remaining 12 municipalities, where mayoral runoffs took place, ISFED had mobile groups of observers. ISFED also observed the outside perimeter of polling stations with 100 static observers. ISFED operated data and incident processing centers at its headquarters, with 23 operators and 10 lawyers, respectively.
ISFED issued three statements during the October 30 runoffs. This time, the organization presents the final assessments concerning the election day, as well as the violations and incidents documented during the vote counting process.
According to the information received from ISFED’s observers, the election was technically administered in line with the legal requirements. However, the instances of gatherings of persons outside of polling stations, alleged vote buying, voter mobilization and tracking of voters, negatively reflected on the expression of the free will of voters; in municipalities where the difference was minimal, this could have had an influence on the election results.
Notably, during the voting process, ISFED reported the facts of voting by persons who had undergone the inking procedure, repeat voting and other shortcomings related to applying and checking of the inking. Numerous violations related to the voters' lists and mobile boxes were also documented. Unfortunately, throughout the day, there were instances of assaults and pressure targeting observers and journalists.
With regards to the vote counting and vote tabulation process, ISFED did not observe any significant shortcomings. However, there were cases when ballots were incorrectly and/or deliberately invalidated.
The combination of the above trends harmed the trust towards election processes. ISFED considers that this is a missed opportunity for the country’s democratic development.
ISFED’s observers lodged 161 complaints with all levels of the electoral administration and registered 22 entries in the record books.
Findings of outside observation (08:00-20:00)
ISFED deployed outside observers at 100 randomly-selected polling stations of eight municipalities under observation. ISFED gathered information from all 100 precincts. According to the obtained information:
Outside 34 polling stations, there were suspicious gatherings of persons. In 15 cases, these gatherings took place within the 100-meter range, in 11 cases - beyond the 100-meter range, and in 8 cases - both within and beyond the 100-meter range;
At 11 polling stations, there were cases of tracking of voters;
Cases of verbal confrontation and pressure were documented at 8 polling stations;
Cases of alleged vote buying were reported at 4 polling stations, including 2 cases in Tbilisi and 2 cases in Batumi;
At 2 polling stations, within 25 meters from the polling station, campaign materials were identified;
At 10 polling stations, ISFED observers reported organized and systematic mobilization and/or transportation of voters to the polling station;
At 5 polling stations, commission members engaged in suspicious communication with the persons standing outside polling stations.
Assessment of the set-up, voting and vote counting process
ISFED retrieved information on the set up of polling stations, voting and vote counting process from 542 observers. According to the obtained information:
All ISFED’s observers were allowed to access the polling station without restrictions;
502 polling stations were ready to receive voters at 8:00am, while 40 polling stations were ready between 08:00-08:20am;
At 540 polling stations, functions between election commission members were assigned in accordance with the law, by casting of lots; The procedure of casting of lots was violated in Tbilisi and Batumi;
At all polling stations, ballot boxes were sealed in accordance with the law and the integrity of the packages where the commission seals are placed, was ensured.
At 541 polling stations, voters cast their vote using proper documentation;
At 534 polling stations, inking was checked in accordance with the law; Cases of violation of the procedure was reported in Tbilisi (4), Batumi (1), Rustavi (1), Zugdidi (1) and Poti (1) electoral districts;
At 538 polling stations, ink was applied in accordance with the law; Cases of violation of the procedure was reported in Tbilisi (2), Batumi (1) and Zugdidi (1) electoral districts;
At 536 polling stations, ballot papers were properly validated, with signature and seal; Violation of the procedure was reported in Tbilisi (2), Batumi (2) and Zugdidi (2) electoral districts;
At 534 polling stations, secrecy of vote was always upheld. Violation of the secrecy of vote was reported in Tbilisi (2), Batumi (2) and Zugdidi (4) electoral districts;
At 23 polling stations, instances of physical violence (2) and verbal confrontation (21) were reported, out of which 8 cases were reported in Tbilisi, 5 in Rustavi, 4 in Zugdidi, 2 in Kutaisi, 2 in Batumi and a single case in Poti and Ozurgeti electoral districts;
At 10 polling stations, there were cases of restricting the rights of ISFED observers, as well as pressure and intimidation targeting them, including in Zugdidi (5), Poti (2), Kutaisi (1), Tbilisi (1) and Telavi (1) electoral districts;
Voters were tracked at 7 polling stations, including in Batumi (4), Rustavi (1), Zugdidi (1) and Telavi (1) electoral districts;
Violations related to the voters list and mobile ballot box were reported at 16 polling stations, including in Tbilisi (6), Zugdidi (3), Kutaisi (2), Poti (2), Batumi (1), Ozurgeti (1) and Telavi (1) electoral districts;
At 541 polling station, casting of lots to determine the vote tabulators was conducted in accordance with the law;
Vote counting process was conducted transparently in all polling stations observed;
At 540 polling stations, election materials were sealed in accordance with the law.
Violations in the vote count and tabulation process
ISFED’s observers identified the following violations:
Restriction of the rights of observers
At the polling station #20 of the electoral district #9 (Nadzaladevi), a representative of the Georgian Dream intervened in the functions of the commission members. After the observer’s notice, Georgian Dream representative verbally assaulted the observer;
The chairperson of Khobi electoral district #66 illegally restricted the right of ISFED’s observer. In particular, the observer noticed that the record book might not have been sealed and requested to check it. In response, the chairperson expressed aggression against the observer and hid the document.
Invalid ballot papers
At the polling station #28 of the electoral district #20 (Rustavi), vote count process revealed that 8 ballot papers did not have registrar’s signatures. All eight ballot papers were cast in favor of the opposition candidate;
At the polling station #42 of the electoral district #17 (Telavi), a registrar did seal several ballot papers, but did not approve them with signatures, that led to the invalidation of those ballot papers. All ballot papers were cast in favor of the opposition candidate;
At the polling station #10 of the electoral district #70 (Poti), around 20 ballot papers were either not signed or not sealed. The registrar responsible for this violation, was not identified. Most ballot papers were cast in favor of the opposition candidate;
At the polling station #17 of the electoral district #59 (Kutaisi), 15 cases of improper handling of the ballot papers were reported. In particular, some ballot papers were either not signed or not sealed, leading to the invalidation of those ballot papers. No explanatory note has been submitted due this violation and the commission chairperson neglected to address the issue;
At the polling station #54 of the electoral district #67 (Zugdidi), a registrar did not sign and seal the ballot papers, which led to their invalidation;
At the polling station #3 of the electoral district #70 (Poti), a registrar did not approve two ballot papers, which led to their invalidation;
At the polling station #3 of the electoral district #79 (Batumi), the commission invalidated the ballot papers where voter’s choice was clearly expressed. For instance, a voter had crossed out one candidate and circled another. 10 such ballot papers were invalidated;
At the polling station #39 of the electoral district #60 (Ozurgeti), though a voter’s choice was clearly expressed, 6 ballot papers of the mayoral and 6 ballot papers of the majoritarian race were invalidated.
At the polling station #71 of the electoral district #5 (Isani), the ballot box supervisor placed extra special envelopes in the ballot box. This prompted disorder at the polling station, which hindered the election process and the voters were not able to cast voters. Later, the commission chairperson called the police to quell the confrontation. The situation turned more tense, with physical altercations. ISFED observer filed a complaint. The observer witnessed the ballot stuffing process, but during the vote tabulation no excess ballots were reported, which creates a suspicion that simultaneously with ballot stuffing, the signatures were also manipulated by the commission members.
At the polling station #90 of the electoral district #67 (Zugdidi), the number of ballots handed out to voters exceeded the number of voters. There was one more ballot than the signatures. The registrar wrote an explanatory note on the matter. The UNM representative expressed dissatisfaction over the issue, prompting physical and verbal confrontation with the Georgian Dream representative.
Refusal to issue summary protocol copies
At the polling station #37 of the electoral district #60 (Ozurgeti), the chairperson refused to hand out copy of the summary protocol to ISFED’s observer, citing errors in the printing machine.
Mismatches in summary protocols
At the polling station #62 of the electoral district #5 (Isani), the number of ballots handed out to voters exceeded the number of voter signatures. There were three more ballots than the signatures;
At the polling station #2 of the electoral district #3 (Saburtalo), the number of ballots handed out to voters exceeded the number of voter signatures. It is worth noting that during the vote counting process, two ballots were found in a single envelope.
The record books of the polling stations #3 and #10 of the electoral district #69 (Chkhorotsku) were not sealed upon receipt at the district commission;
The record books of the polling stations #16 of the electoral district #3 (Saburtalo) were not sealed upon receipt at the district commission.
Violations related to the voters list
At the polling station #53 of the electoral district #9 (Nadzaladevi), the voter signature next to the registrar’s signature was absent. Although the signature section was blank, the commission chairperson decided to count the signature in the total number of signatures;
At the polling station #17 of the electoral district #3 (Saburtalo), all 11 voters in the special list participated both the mayoral and majoritarian contest of the municipality council elections, although 4 of them were not entitled to take part in the latter.
Campaigning at the polling station
At the polling station #39 of the electoral district #33 (Kareli), there was a Georgian Dream flag in the polling booth. The chairperson did not react to the problem.
*ISFED observed every third polling station in Tbilisi, and every second polling station in the rest of the locations.
** ISFED covered 57 polling stations in Tbilisi, 9 polling stations in Kutaisi, 8 in Batumi, 8 in Zugdidi, 6 in Rustavi, 5 in Ozurgeti, 4 in Telavi and 3 in Poti.
ISFED's monitoring mission is made possible by the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the European Union (EU). Monitoring of the outside perimeter of polling stations was made possible by the British embassy in Georgia. The opinions expressed herein belong solely to the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID, the United States Government, the EU, or the UK Government.