Three respected Georgian election watchdogs – ISFED, GYLA and TI Georgia released a joint assessment of the pre-election environment on November 27, a day before the presidential runoff.
According to the statement, the election environment in the run-up to the November 28 polls was highly polarized, and was marred by “negative campaigning.” The media too, was divided along partisan lines, according to the organizations.
The watchdogs stressed absence of candidate debates deprived voters to make an informed choice. “Instead, voters witnessed extreme polarization, confrontation, aggressive rhetoric and hate speech employed by various groups supporting the presidential candidates.”
The watchdogs also stressed that some statements made by ruling party and opposition politicians, including on the possibility of civil war by the former, were “alarming.” Messages of newly-established anti-UNM public groups were “extremely negative and aggressive.”
They also said voter intimidation and coercion in favor of Salome Zurabishvili was “wide-spread and alarming.” According to the organizations, public servants of municipality agencies, as well as the socially vulnerable and former convicts, have been pressured to vote for Zurabishvili.
The watchdogs also noted that there were several cases when public servants were dismissed on alleged political grounds.
The CSOs also touched upon the government’s alleged vote-buying attempts, saying the debt write-off scheme was launched to “win voters’ sympathies.” They also said voters in the regions were offered money and foodstuffs in exchange for supporting Zurabishvili.
The watchdogs also noted that the election administration set the runoff date on a working day in opposition to CSO recommendations, which they believe will “create difficulties for voters living abroad.”