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ISFED Releases Interim Report on Election Campaign

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) released on September 13 its first interim report on elections, highlighting a number of shortcomings revealed in composition of precinct election commissions and other violations.

The local election watchdog said that its 69 long-term observers have been monitoring the pre-election process since August 1.

The first interim report covers the period from August 1 to September 8. Among potential violations revealed during this period the authors enumerate the cases of physical confrontation, alleged politically motivated pressure, use of administrative resources, voter bribing and hampering election campaign.

Composition of election commissions

According to the report, irregularities in selecting the non-permanent members of district election commissions as well as organization of competitions for selecting the members of precinct election commissions were one of the main challenges.

While analyzing the selection process in 73 district commissions, the potential cases of nepotism were identified in 14 cases, identifiable Georgian Dream’s supporters or activists were elected in eight cases out of 73 district commissions.

The report says that the process of selecting members of precinct election commission was also problematic. “Before announcing a competition, a phone conversation was disseminated with the chairperson of the Krtsanisi district election commission, where he allegedly confirmed that he agreed on the candidates of precinct commissions with the head of Georgian Dream’s headquarters. Shortly after dissemination of the phone conversation, he resigned,” the report reads.

ISFED said in its report that the opposition United National Movement demanded holding of interviews with the candidates in 45 precinct election commissions, but all of these requests were rejected.

Attempts to bribe voters

According to the interim report, several public events were held in some municipalities in an attempt to cajole the voters that created the risks of vote-bribing and of using executive remit for campaigning. Moreover, alleged involvement of charitable and religious organizations in election campaign was also observed, that is banned by the election code.

Pressure on the media

The interim report highlights the issue of imposing a fine on Rustavi 2 TV for airing a political ad without notifying the Georgian National Communications Commission (GNCC) about it.  ISFED argues that a TV channel has an obligation to send similar notification only if there are less than 50 days left before the elections.

It also criticized GNCC for its decision, according to which TV channels were urged to recheck the reliability of public opinion polls commissioned by them.

ISFED also draws attention to recent controversy surrounding Iberia TV, whose owner alleges to be pressured by the government to yield the company.

Recommendations

ISFED called on election administration to remain politically impartial at all levels in election commissions and also recommended GNCC to revoke its decision obliging TV channels to verify the veracity of the public opinion polls or face a fine. It also called on charitable and religious organizations, as well as local self-government bodies to observe the requirements and restrictions envisaged by the election code.

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