First interim report on pre-election monitoring
The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) started monitoring of pre-election period for 2 October, 2021 Local Self-government Elections.
The official pre-election monitoring interim report covers the period from 3 August to 30 August, 2021, as well as a few separate events that either began before 3 August and carried into the reporting period, or became known during the monitoring period.
The following key tendencies were identified during the reporting period through ISFED’s observation mission:
- District and precinct level commissions were composed during the reporting period. Conducting interviews for candidates for District Election Commission (DEC) members and broadcasting the interviews live should be assessed positively, however, some of the candidates did not consent to live-streaming of their interviews thus creating unequal conditions. It should be noted that the election commissions members were not always appointed through high quorum, which would have been of utmost importance for increasing confidence in the election administration. For example, 55% of DEC members were appointed by low quorum. In case of Precinct Election Commission (PEC) members, some newly appointed members had been imposed disciplinary liability during previous elections. There were cases when DEC members had lists of candidates to be supported prepared in advance. In most cases, DEC commissioners appointed by the United National Movement (UNM), European Georgia and Lelo did not participate in the process of appointing members to PECs;
- Advisory Group – a novelty envisaged by the electoral reform – was established during the reporting period. The Group provides advise with regard to dispute resolution process. ISFED – initially invited to participate in the selection of members of the Group – left the group, once the rule of decision-making based on consensus was amended and also because of bias and non-credible reputation of some members of the group;
- There is a tendency throughout Georgia of dismissal, pressure and the creation of a hostile work environment on the basis of possible political affiliation, mainly with regard to supporters or sympathizers of For Georgia party. ISFED is representing many of the dismissed people in court.
- During the reporting period, the office of the opposition party Droa was damaged in Zugdidi. Obscene graffiti was left on the office façade and the poster was damaged. It should be noted that this is not the first case of damaging Droa’s office.
- With election day approaching, the facts of use of administrative resources and participation of unauthorized persons in the election campaign sharply increased.
- ISFED is also working on the issue of politization of educational institutions, which is an especially acute problem during the pre-election period. There are facts of using school staff for electoral purposes in the regions in favor of the ruling party and involving them in the pre-election campaign.
- There was a tendency to restrict ISFED observers. Georgian Dream in most cases refused to allow observers to their candidate presentation events; according to party leaders, the events were open only to media and not the observers.
- Media environment in Georgia remains polarized. During the reporting period, few journalists left TV channels protesting changes in the editorial policy of the channel and attempts to limit their independence. A journalist from Public Broadcaster was dismissed - which may be connected to his recent critical statements against the government and the management of the television. It is also noteworthy that Imedi TV refused to broadcast advertisement of European Georgia alleging use of hate speech- the fact contains signs of interference of the TV channel in the content of the advertisement.
- Georgian Dream remained the most active party with regard to pre-election campaigning. For Georgia party actively campaigned as well.
- During the reporting period Interagency Commission for Free and Fair Elections (ICFF) held its meeting discussing various media reports about possible violations in the election process. ISFED called on the state agencies represented in the Commission to conduct an in-depth investigation into the facts of possible dismissal on political grounds, which has become a trend, and to give a substantiated and convincing answer to the public. The organization also focused on the frequent cases of campaigning by public servants on social networks – a fact that is not properly assessed by the relevant authorities;
During the reporting period and based on its observation, ISFED revealed: 15 facts of dismissal/pressure to resign on allegedly political grounds; 11 facts of pressure/intimidation/obstruction on allegedly political grounds; 13 facts of alleged misuse of administrative resources; six facts of campaigning on social networks; four facts of possible vote buying; eight facts of campaigning by acting officials; tendency of obstructing ISFED observers by the ruling party was noted throughout Georgia. In addition, there were cases of direct and / or indirect coercion of persons employed in educational institutions into participating in the Georgian Dream campaign.