ISFED: violations of the electoral legislation became frequent
On October 3, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) published the fourth interim report of pre-election monitoring of the October 8, 2016 parliamentary elections.
The report covers the period from September 2 to October 1, during which ISFED observers attended 643 public meetings held by electoral subjects.
As the electoral campaign moved into an active phase, violations of the electoral legislation became frequent. ISFED detected the following incidents during the reporting period: 3 cases of alleged political dismissals; 11 cases of intimidation; 12 cases of abuse of administrative resources; 8 cases of interference with campaigning; 6 cases of violence; 4 cases of possible vote buying; 2 cases of vandalizing party offices; 37 cases of destroying campaign materials 4 cases of using hate speech; 8 cases of campaigning by unauthorized individuals.
The reporting period was marked by violent confrontations between political opponents and activists. Activists and supporters of opposition parties as well as the ruling party suffered injuries as a result of use of force and cold weapons. People have been hospitalized following these incidents. Subsequent investigations have been launched.
Acts of harassment/intimidation against opposition members and activists on alleged political grounds have grown considerably. It was mostly representatives of opposition electoral subjects that were targeted by various forms of harassment and intimidation. During the reporting period representatives of opposition parties reported verbal threats, removal of social benefits and other forms of intimidation to ISFED observers.
Interference with campaign events of competitors occurred often. Meetings of parties were mostly attended by local self-government employees holding opposing political views, trying to interfere with campaigning using different forms of interference.
Incidents that involved damaging of campaign materials – party flags, posters and banners - grew considerably and mostly included tearing down of posters, and placing posters of an electoral subject over posters of another electoral subject. With only a few exceptions, it was impossible to identify the perpetrators. These incidents affected campaign materials of virtually every political party.
The pre-election campaign by the electoral subject Davit Tarkhan Mouravi, Irma Inashvili – Alliance of Patriots of Georgia was marked by clear xenophobic calls.
Abuse of administrative resources persisted during the reporting period, mostly by local self-governments, in favor of the ruling party. ISFED detected production and free of charge distribution of print materials for campaigning, use of buildings, campaigning during events funded from the State budget by event organizers, which is prohibited under the Election Code. Some municipalities have been using text-messaging service to keep individual citizens informed about status of certain projects. These initiatives of local municipalities may amount to a form of influencing will of voters and contain signs of abuse of administrative resources.
Illegal wiretapping of politically active individuals continued during the pre-election period. An audio recording of a conversation that allegedly took place between Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia, and some UNM members was leaked on the Internet. The video recording suggests that these individuals are debating a revolutionary scenario for the electoral processes. Leaking of the recording was preceded by statements made by representatives of the ruling political party, alleging that the UNM was planning to cause a destabilization and unrest for the elections. The investigative authorities should launch an effective and impartial investigation for determining authenticity of the video recordings and whether the alleged criminal intentions are real, as well as for combating the crime of illegal wiretapping.
ISFED maps all reports of pre-election incidents and possible violations on the interactive incident map available at the Georgian Elections Portal: http://www.electionsportal.ge/eng/.
Anyone can report a possible violation to the Elections Portal by sending a text to a toll-free number 90039 or by going to http://www.electionsportal.ge/eng/new_incident.