Georgia approaches its last direct presidential elections with “an atmosphere of uncertainty about its relevance,” the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) mission said in its assessment of the pre-election environment on July 27.
The six-member delegation from the U.S.-based nonprofit, which has been working on political party development and democracy programs in Georgia since 1994, met on July 23 – 27 with state officials, candidates, political party leaders, election authorities, media, civil society organizations and international community.
According to NDI’s pre-election assessment, “Georgia enters the election with numerous democratic assets,” with fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association “largely respected.” The country, however, “heads into this presidential election with uncertainty.”
“The date still has not been set; the ruling party has not yet determined whether it will field a candidate; the current president has not decided whether or not he will run; parties are divided about the relevance of this election given the limitations of the office, sending a message of ambivalence to the public,” NDI’s statement reads.
The document also says that “Georgia’s legislative framework is broadly in line with international standards and conducive to the conduct of democratic elections,” but “a number of longstanding issues that pre-date the current government remain unresolved,” including uneven campaign donations, alleged abuse of state resources and intimidation by various state agencies.
In its recommendations, the mission addressed the President of Georgia to set the election date “as soon as possible” to ensure that relevant regulations around campaigning are applied and parties and candidates can commence their official campaigns.
It also urged the government to “undertake a visible, concerted effort to ensure that there is a clear separation between the party and the state,” and to ensure that “abuse of administrative resources will not be tolerated, and that violators will face prosecution.”
The mission will continue to observe and analyze the electoral process in coming weeks. The National Democratic Institute will also deploy a team of long-term observers, as well as an international Election Day observation delegation for the October presidential polls.