The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), a Tbilisi-based election watchdog, released its interim report of the November 28 runoff, highlighting a number of shortcomings identified from October 29 through November 19.
According to the report, the election environment in the run-up to the November 28 elections has been characterized by “more polarization and negative campaigns.” “Aggressive rhetoric has intensified between the first and the second rounds.”
The election watchdog noted an increase in the number of violations compared to previous reporting periods, primarily in the form of voter intimidation (40 cases), use of administrative resources (14 cases) and vote buying (13 cases).
ISFED said voter intimidation and coercion has become “wide-spread.” According to the organization, public servants of municipality agencies have been pressured to vote for the ruling party-endorsed candidate, Salome Zurabishvili. ISFED listed three cases when public servants were dismissed on alleged political grounds.
The organization also documented five cases of campaign-related violence, with almost all cases targeting the opposition supporters. It also stressed the statements made by some ruling party members on the possibility of civil war in case the opposition candidate wins the second round is “alarming.”
ISFED touched upon the death threats made against Salome Zurabishvili, calling on the law enforcement agencies to investigate the case “immediately, effectively and impartially.”
According to the report, five newly-established public groups were actively campaigning against the opposition candidate in the reporting period. ISFED believes these groups have clear “electoral objectives,” and are spending their financial resources in favor of a concrete presidential candidate, which makes them subject to political party funding rules.
ISFED has a number of recommendations before the runoff polls. Among others, the watchdog calls on senior officials to publicly denounce voter intimidation and vote buying, and to instruct the municipality officials “to immediately halt attempts to pressure voters.” It also calls on politicians to refrain from using hate speech in the campaign.