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Watchdogs: Runoff Campaign Should be ‘Free of Violent, Aggressive Rhetoric’

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Three leading election watchdogs – GYLA, TI Georgia and ISFED – believe that the upcoming runoffs will be “an important test for advancing and consolidating the Georgian democracy,” and call on the public officials to refrain from making statements that could trigger election-related violence ahead of the second round of presidential elections.

In a statement released on November 5, the watchdogs said recent remarks of some ruling party members alluding to the possibility of civil confrontation in case the UNM-led coalition’s Grigol Vashadze wins the presidential race, “contain signs of propaganda of civil war and violence,” and “undermine the idea of democratic elections.”

“Statements on the possibility of civil war are extremely alarming and damaging,” the CSOs noted, adding that “all political forces have to respect the will of voters.” “Both – the ruling party and the opposition – have to articulate the position that they respect the will of Georgian citizens and will avoid confrontation regardless of the results demonstrated in the runoffs.”

The watchdogs also called on presidential candidates, political parties and activists to “immediately stop” the aggressive rhetoric, and on the authorities to ensure “peaceful and safe” election environment in the period leading up to and during the election day.

The organizations also touched upon the Akhalkalaki incident of October 30, when several opposition activists were attacked by a group of ruling party members. The CSOs called on the authorities to carry out “timely and unbiased” investigation into the incident and punish all perpetrators.

Georgia held the first round of its last direct presidential elections on October 28. The vote results put the ruling party-backed candidate Salome Zurabishvili neck-to-neck with Grigol Vashadze of the UNM-led opposition coalition.

Runoff between the two top contenders has to be held two weeks after the CEC publishes the final vote tally of the first round, that is no later than 20 days after the Election Day. This places the latest possible date of the runoff on December 1, 2018.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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