The Election Day proceeded in a calm and orderly manner, but the pre-election period was marked by attacks on CSOs and alleged abuse of administrative resources, the National Democratic Institute’s (NDI) election observer delegation said in its preliminary statement on October 29.
The fifteen-member, high-level delegation from the U.S.-based nonprofit arrived in Tbilisi on October 13 and held meetings with Georgian leaders, government officials, civil society representatives, and a wide range of election stakeholders across the political spectrum.
On the Election Day, NDI’s six observer teams observed opening, voting and counting processes in polling stations across the country.
NDI said in its report that the country’s last direct presidential election “was marked by both positive and negative features.”
According to the preliminary statement, the election “was competitive and voters were presented with diverse political choices.” “Voters had electoral choices and the campaign was lively and dynamic, though filled with vitriol and personal attacks,” reads the assessment.
“The campaign environment was generally peaceful, though highly negative, and candidates were able to campaign freely and mostly without hindrance,” NDI said.
The observation mission also noted the country has the technical and legal provisions in place to conduct democratic elections, but challenges the elections “are more entrenched and difficult to remedy.” “Longstanding problems of an uneven playing field and abuse of administrative resources remain.”
NDI touched upon the media environment as well, saying it was diverse, but “fractured along partisan lines.” “There was ample coverage of the campaign on most media outlets and viewers had the opportunity to compare and contrast contenders,” it said.
The delegation said “most striking” about the pre-election period “were the aggressive, personalized, and unprecedented attacks” by senior officials against leading civil society organizations (CSOs) and their leaders.
The observers believe this “not only cast a shadow over this specific election period but signify a distinct departure from the otherwise constructive, if not occasionally tense, relationship between government and civil society in Georgia.”
The delegation said it is also “concerned by reports by civil society and opposition parties of pressure on state officials to mobilize support for the GD-backed candidate.”