GYLA Releases Pre-Election Assessment Report

The Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), a local rights watchdog, released its second report on the upcoming by-elections, highlighting campaign violations identified in the period from April 28 and May 15.

According to GYLA, the report is based on the assessments of 10 long-term observers and its teams from central and regional offices.

The by-elections will be held on May 19. Voters will go to the polls to elect five municipality mayors (Marneuli, Zestaponi, Chiatura, Zugdidi and Khulo), as well as to fill one vacant majoritarian seat in the Parliament and eight majoritarian seats in municipality councils.

The organization said the overall pre-election environment has been largely calm, but with the election day approaching the situation has deteriorated, with most incidents taking place in Zugdidi.

“It is unfortunate that the pre-election environment is getting more and more strained as we are getting closer to the election day. It is a lot more concerning that these methods are used by major political parties… such instances could threaten peaceful conduct of elections,” it said.

GYLA called on all political stakeholders to avoid further escalation, and on the Interior Ministry “to carry out preventive measures against such facts, as well as to investigate previous incidents promptly and hold perpetrators accountable.”

The report also pointed out that municipal authorities in Akhmeta increased budgetary funding for social support programs in the reporting period, which – the organization said – amounts to abuse of administrative resources and violation of electoral legislation.  

GYLA also touched upon the May 15 incident in Zugdidi, when several men disrupted the campaign event of Sandra Roelofs, and assaulted – verbally and physically – persons accompanying her, as well as journalists. It said the Interior Ministry had to launch the investigation on charges of interference with journalistic activities, rather than the charge of “violence.”

GYLA also highlighted that placement of political ads in favor of other candidates – a practice used in the election campaign by Sandra Roelofs of the United Opposition and Shalva Shavgulidze of Free Democrats/European Georgia, amounts to campaign finance violation.

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