Final report on the 2018 Presidential election
This report by the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) presents an overview and analysis of the key findings from ISFED’s observation mission of the pre-election, Election Day, election runoff and post-election periods. At the same time, it provides assessment of the work of key administrative bodies involved in elections. Drawing upon the findings, ISFED offers 42 recommendations for improvement of the electoral environment in Georgia.
As one of the key recommendations, ISFED believes an inclusive working group of various stakeholders should be created in Parliament with the mandate to make decisions and prepare legislative proposals. Reform of the rule of composition of election administration, improvement of electoral dispute resolution process, changes to the format of the Inter-Agency Commission, addressing the issue of illegal campaigning through social media, as well as mechanisms for accounting spending on sponsored discredited campaigns on Facebook are some of the areas of focus of ISFED’s recommendations. ISFED expresses its openness to work with relevant partners and stakeholders to assist the authorities in implementing these recommendations.
Summary of findings
The 2018 election was the last time the president was elected directly through universal election. Based on amendments made to the Constitution of Georgia in 2017, the next president will be elected without universal election, through indirect vote. In addition, as an exception, the term of office of the last directly elected president will be 6 years instead of 5.
The pre-election period ahead of the first round of the elections was marked by mutual accusations launched by candidates against one another and an unprecedented level of coordinated attacks against domestic observer organizations by the authorities and the ruling party officials, accompanied by further smear campaigns on social media. This escalated further with more negative campaigning ahead of the presidential runoff. Organized discrediting campaigns against main presidential candidates and political parties through sponsored content posted by anonymous pages was a challenge in terms of the influence of social media on the electoral environment. For more details on the role of social media during this election please see ISFED’s monitoring report here.
There was also an unprecedented scale of vote buying through the writing off of bank loans for 600,000 citizens by the Government.
The conduct of the Election Days were mostly peaceful and organized. However, during both rounds, there was a trend of mobilization of party activists outside polling stations, who were tracking voters. During the second round ISFED identified serious incidents, such as attempted thefts of ballot boxes and loss of table lists of voters.
A significant challenge for the election administration was the process of composition of district and precinct election commissions, which raised legitimate questions about political influences and nepotism in the process of selection of professional members.
Analysis of the process of handling complaints filed on and after the Election Day of the first and the second rounds of the presidential election makes it clear that the complaints process at the election administration failed to ensure effective response to violations identified in the election and imposition of sanctions prescribed by law on responsible individuals. District Election Commissions avoided revision of voting results irrespective of seriousness of violation.
For the full report and its recommendations please see following document.
For a summarising presentation of this report please see following document.