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International Observers Assess Polls
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 22 May.'08 / 19:14

Polling day was generally calm, and overall, voting was assessed positively, but vote counting was assessed “less positively” as was tabulation, the main international election observation mission said in its preliminary statement on May 22.

The International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) for the May 21 parliamentary elections in Georgia was a joint undertaking of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the European Parliament (EP) and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA).

Its preliminary report said that “despite efforts to conduct elections in line with standards, a number of problems were identified which made their implementation uneven and incomplete.”

Joao Soares, Special Co-ordinator of the OSCE short-term observers and head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation, however, said at a news conference in Tbilisi: “These elections were not perfect, but since I was here in January for the presidential election, concrete and substantial progress has been made. Problems and much work remain. I hope all political forces in this country will come together and continue to work to improve Georgia's democracy.”

In its conclusion on the January presidential election the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission said that it assessed “compliance of the [January 5 presidential] election process with OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections.”

No judgment of this type is included in the preliminary statement of the IEOM on the May 21 parliamentary elections.

The IEOM observed voting in up to 1,500 polling stations out of a total of 3,558 throughout the country and vote counting was observed in some 150 polling stations. The IEOM monitors have also observed the tabulation process in 73 District Election Commissions.

Vote opening procedures were assessed positively in 85% of polling stations and the voting process “as good or very good” in 92% of polling stations visited. The report, however, says that the process was assessed more negatively in several regions, specifically Shida Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Kakheti, Guria and Kvemo Kartli.

“The vote count was assessed less positively; some 22% of IEOM observers assessed it as bad or very bad. A considerable number of PECs (precinct election commissions) did not perform basic reconciliation procedures before opening the ballot boxes,” the report says. “Unauthorized persons were frequently present and at times participated in the process. IEOM observers reported three cases of outright falsification.”

It also said that the tabulation process was “assessed critically” in some 16% of the District Election Commissions (DEC).

“IEOM observers noted, in particular, the presence of unauthorized persons and PECs filling in or correcting protocols at the DEC without being allowed to do so. In two thirds of DECs, not all protocols reconciled correctly. In a number of DECs, observers noted a lack of transparency or impediments to the work of observers,” the report reads.

The report also reiterates some of its findings unveiled in the IEOM’s two interim pre-election reports. And in respect of media it notes that “despite the pluralistic media environment, most outlets remain under strong influence from their owners and political patrons.” It also noted that the public TV was the most balanced among the television stations.

"Voting and counting is now over, but this election process continues: a lot will depend now on the tabulation of results and the way complaints and appeals will be handled by the authorities,” Boris Frlec, head of the OSCE/ODIHR long-term election observation mission said. “We will remain in Georgia to closely monitor this process.”
 
“In our report you will see a big number of improvements, also several shortcomings,” Matyas Eorsi, head of the delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said at a news conference in Tbilisi. “Very clearly these essential criteria for good elections have not yet met in Georgia. But every election must be seen and judged in the environment it takes place.”

“In a modern democratic Georgia power must be decided in a ballot booth, in a process in which everybody can trust. Most of the shortcomings, which you can read in the report, have the same root. This is hatred, this is lack of any confidence which leads to a political atmosphere, where you cannot have a dialogue and you do not have a perfect election environment. This election, however, with all the positive and the negative, now has come to an end and it provides an opportunity for the future. So, I propose to focus on the future.”

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