The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) has been monitoring October 8, 2016 elections of the Parliament of Georgia and Adjara Supreme council since July 1, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The third interim report of the pre-election monitoring covers the period from August 8 to September 1, 2016, as well as developments that began to unfold before August 8 and continued during the monitoring period.
During the reporting period a special electoral regime came into effect. In particular, the prohibition to amend budgets and increase the amount of unplanned welfare benefits became effective, special media regulations started
to apply, and the staffing of precinct election commissions (PECs) by district level commissions (DECs) was completed. In addition, registration of electoral subjects came to an end: a total of 6 electoral blocs and 24 parties will be competing in the parliamentary elections of Georgia.
Significantly increased the election campaign. ISFED observers monitored 439 public meetings in the period of August 8 – September 1.
As the electoral campaign moved into a more active phase, instances of alleged political intimidation/harassment against members of opposition parties and their activists grew considerably. Three incidents provided in this report suggest that law enforcement officers possibly exceeded their official powers. In addition to instances of campaign interference, in several cases offices of opposition parties were vandalized, putting free and fair electoral environment at risk. The reporting period saq several instances where campaign materials were damaged; no such violation had occurred before, during initial stages of the pre-election campaign.
ISFED identified 11 instances of alleged political harassment/intimidation, 2 cases of physical violence, 1 case of possible vote buying, 5 cases of campaigning by unauthorized persons, 4 cases of misuse of administrative resources, 7 cases of campaign interference and 5 cases of damaging campaign materials.
To summarize key trends:
- In three out of six cases of direct campaign interference and vandalism on party offices, United National Movement (UNM) offices were targeted; in two cases, meetings of the Georgian Dream candidates with voters were disrupted. Effective and timely investigation of these incidents, identification and prosecution of perpetrators is especially important for prevention of any similar violations in the pre-election process;
- Harassment/intimidation of opposition party members and activists became more frequent during the reporting period. Three out of eleven cases reported by ISFED, involved police officers that allegedly intimidated/harassed political activists. Incidents identified by the organization contain signs of a criminal offence and call for timely and effective response by law enforcement authorities.
- Campaign materials were destroyed in 5 cases, against the recommendations of the Interagency Commission for Free and Fair Elections. All incidents are currently under investigation but the authorities have not yet released any information about the status of these investigations. On July 29, the Interagency Commission addressed political parties, electoral subjects and local self-government bodies, urging “political parties and local self-government bodies to issue clear instructions that categorically prohibit their activists/representatives from destroying competitors’ campaign materials or obstructing placement of such materials.”
- During the pre-election period, another case of vote buying was identified by ISFED. Despite multiple prohibitions in the electoral legislation, the Alliance of Patriots attempts to entice voters by providing free food. Vote buying, as the most severe form of political corruption, jeopardizes equal electoral environment, impacts free expression of voters’ will, obstructs development of political culture and poses a fundamental obstacle to political and economic development of the country.
- Several irregularities were revealed in the practice of registration of electoral subjects at the Central Election Commission (CEC). Upon examining registration documents of the political union the Centrists, ISFED found that the CEC registered the party as political subject based on insufficient and unreliable documents. Information provided by the Public Registry presents grounds for abolishing electoral registration of yet another political party. It should also be noted that the Resolution #60/2016, adopted by the CEC on August 24, clearly put into disadvantaged position those electoral subjects that have to participate in casting of lots in order to receive their electoral number.
- The process of composition of PECs by professional members went with irregularities which raised important questions about the political impartiality of the PEC members. ISFED found out that selection of professional members at some PECs was conducted on the basis of pre-made lists. Opposition representatives allege
Please find the whole report as PDF here.