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ISFED Reports ‘Unprecedented Forms’ of Voter Intimidation

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The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), a Tbilisi-based election watchdog, claims voter intimidation ahead of the presidential runoff has taken “wide-spread,” and “unprecedented” forms. In a statement released on November 19, ISFED said both private and public sector employees have been subject to undue pressure.

According to the organization, there have been several cases when municipality officials tried to coerce public servants to support the ruling party-endorsed candidate Salome Zurabishvili. “They warn them that they will be dismissed unless they vote for Zurabishvili, and that there will be destabilization and confrontation in the country,” reads ISFED’s statement.

The watchdog also noted these cases were reported following meetings of regional governors with municipality mayors, as well as Interior Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s visits to the regions.

ISFED said there have also been instances when businessmen coerced their employees not to support the opposition candidate. The watchdog also described a case of voter intimidation by a police officer, who reportedly threatened a resident of Marneuli with arresting his family member and imposing a fine on his small business unless he stopped supporting Grigol Vashadze.

The organization also pointed out that some activists presenting themselves as ruling party coordinators in Batumi, have canvassed to households of voters who they believed did not participate in the elections, raising doubts that there has been a leak of confidential information on who voted in the first round.

The organization said these reports are “alarming,” and called on the authorities “to openly and publicly condemn facts of voter intimidation,” and “to urge the municipality officials and their supporters to immediately stop threatening voters.” It also called on businesses to allow their employees to express their will freely.

The first round of presidential election was held on October 28. No candidate garnered more than 50% of votes. Runoff between the two top contenders – Salome Zurabishvili and Grigol Vashadze, who finished with 38.64% and 37.74%, respectively, will be held on November 28.

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