A needs assessment mission from OSCE’s democracy and rights arm ODIHR published a report concerning the pre-election environment and the preparation process in lead up to October parliamentary elections.
The mission that visited Tbilisi from August 3 to 8, held meetings were with officials from state institutions, representatives of political parties, media, civil society, and international organizations.
The report, published on August 27, reads that NAM recommends the secondment of 28 long-term observers from OSCE participating States to follow the electoral process throughout Georgia, and 350 short-term observers to follow election day proceedings. The observation mission would include a media monitoring element, as well.
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The Mission said its Georgian interlocutors consider the successful implementation of the updated legal framework essential for the democratic conduct of the elections. It said that some interlocutors questioned the sufficiency of the changes.
According to the report, several interlocutors stated that further improvements in regards to the composition of election commissions, measures tackling possible voter intimidation, electoral dispute resolution, measures ensuring transparency of campaign finance, and regulation of campaigning on social networks, are the possible areas for further improvements.
Noting that most of the interlocutors expressed confidence and trust in
the work of the CEC, NAM said several of them noted “higher representation of the governing [Georgian Dream] party in the lower-level commissions” and “voiced concerns about their impartiality and independence.”
ODIHR said the election campaign is expected to concentrate on “economic topics, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, rule of law and independence of the judiciary.” NAM interlocutors reportedly claimed that the coronavirus pandemic does not pose any hindrances to the conduct of the campaign process.
A number of interlocutors, however, ODIHR noted, expressed worry over the Georgian Dream capitalizing on the COVID-19 response for electoral gains. Some interpreted the introduction of government’ COVID-tackling programs briefly before the elections as “potential vote-buying.”
ODIHR noted that its interlocutors acknowledged the competence of the State Audit Office, the body charged with overseeing campaign finances, but “a number of” them questioned its effectiveness due to a deficit of human resources and lack of sanctioning powers.
Most interlocutors, ODIHR said, “showed a lack of confidence in the transparency of the campaign and party finance process.”
As to media environment, ODIHR said most of the interlocutors regard it as
“diverse but divided along political lines.” In this context, the mission said some of the interlocutors have expressed the prevalence of “alleged pressure on prominent television hosts and journalists critical of the government.”
In relation to election observation, NAM interlocutors reportedly expressed their concerns over the “misuse of citizen observation for political interest”, which could contribute to a general decline in popular confidence in election observation.
Speaking of complaints and appeals, the report noted that “despite a previous ODIHR recommendation to allow all election commission decisions to be appealed, even if taken by an individual, decisions of the CEC Chairperson on campaign violations are not subject to appeal.”
NAM interlocutors also demonstrated “a lack of confidence in the independence of the judiciary and effectiveness of electoral dispute resolution process,” the report added.