The Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC) has reported that 6 international and 53 local organizations have so far registered to observe the October 31 parliamentary elections in Georgia. The health emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic significantly affected the conduct of elections and observation missions worldwide, with Georgia’s crucial parliamentary vote being no exception. Here are the planned and ongoing election monitoring activities by key international and local watchdogs.
The pandemic led to limiting the presence of some of the major international observation groups who have been traditionally dispatched to monitor the polls in Georgia.
National Democratic Institute (NDI), a U.S.-based non-profit, will be monitoring the October elections remotely, employing a team of seven long-term analysts and a program director. The mission will be supported by local assistants and NDI staff in Tbilisi. To compare, NDI sent 3 long-term analysts and a 23-person short-term international delegation for the first round of 2016 parliamentary polls.
The International Republican Institute, another U.S.-based organization, has recently announced the arrival of its international Technical Election Assessment Mission (TEAM) to Georgia, consisting of five technical long-term analysts who will review all phases of the electoral process and issue a series of reports on their findings. In 2016, IRI deployed a 14-person long-term observation mission and 20 teams of election-day observers to the country.
The OSCE/ODIHR will again offer the largest international mission, similar to the size of the 2016 election observation team. Starting on September 25, the ODIHR mission – headed by Ambassador Jillian Stirk – will include a core team of 13 Tbilisi-based experts, 27 long-term observers to be deployed countrywide from October 1, and, as expected, 350 short-term observers from the OSCE participating states to follow election day proceedings.
Among many local organizations that have registered to observe the upcoming polls, the efforts and findings of four CSOs with extensive experience in large scale election monitoring – ISFED, GYLA, TI Georgia, and Multinational Georgia – will be of crucial importance in assessing the overall fairness of the elections, both locally and internationally.
- International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
ISFED, a major local CSO with a focus on election processes in Georgia, has launched its long-term observation mission since June 1 and has since released three interim reports. The long-term election mission consists of 68 observers guided by the CSO’s regional heads, covering every municipality in the country, excluding the occupied territories.
On the voting day, ISFED plans to deploy 1,000 short-term static observers at polling stations countrywide, in addition to dozens of mobile groups to monitor the situation outside the precincts. The watchdog will also assign observers to each district election commission throughout the country.
The CSO will take note of all kinds of election violations as specified by Georgian legislation, ISFED Head Elene Nijaradze told Civil.ge, adding that the organization has been also monitoring election-related discrediting campaigns in social media. Most notably, ISFED will be the only watchdog in Georgia to offer a Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT), a statistical method based on a representative random sampling of polling stations aimed at verifying official results.
- Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA)
GYLA, another principal CSO with a large-scale election observation mission, has deployed a long-term mission, consisting of 9 observers, 4 analysts, a program head, and an assistant, that has been watching the pre-election environment since June. The watchdog has already released one interim report.
On the voting day, GYLA is going to mobilize a short-term staff of up to 1,300 monitors, including static observers and mobile groups, covering in total 3,000 precincts country-wide, Vakhushti Menabde, Program Director at GYLA, told Civil.ge.
According to Menabde, GYLA will concentrate its efforts on the “problematic precincts”, including in the areas with ethnic minorities, IDP settlements, villages adjacent to the occupation line, and other areas of high vulnerability, with a particular focus on the violations affecting the free expression of voters’ will on-site.
- Transparency International (TI) Georgia
TI Georgia, the key NGO in Georgia to work on corruption-related issues, has launched its long-term observation, led by regional offices (in Kutaisi, Batumi, Zugdidi, Akhaltsikhe, Telavi) and representatives (in Kvemo Kartli, Guria and Shida Kartli) with the kick-off of the election campaign on September 1, CSO Head Eka Gigauri told Civil.ge.
According to Gigauri, outside general election-related concerns, the CSO’s observation mission will have two major focuses, which are 1) use of administrative resources by authorities, with a respective report coming in October and 2) party financing schemes – including party revenues and the sources, links between donors and public tenders/ direct state contracts, party expenses, etc.
On the polling day, TI Georgia is going to dispatch 600 observers country-wide, including static observers and mobile groups. The organization will also offer regular updates on the election day through press conferences as well as with a live blog, Eka Gigauri told Civil.ge.
- Public Movement – Multinational Georgia (PMMG)
PMGG is another longtime observer of elections in Georgia. Since June 15, the NGO has set up a long-term monitoring mission with 21 observers, and is going to enlist up to 600 observers on the polling day, organization’s Head Arnold Stepanyan told Civil.ge.
Multinational Georgia will focus its monitoring activities to 21 municipalities with ethnic minority inhabited areas, in Eastern Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti, Kvemo Kartli, Kakheti, Shida Kartli, and Mtskheta-Mtianeti regions.
A wide variety of election topics covered by PMGG’s observation agenda include, among others, awareness about political platforms and voting rights among ethnic minorities, the inclusion of ethnic issues in election platforms, as well as efforts by parties and candidates to expand participation levels of ethnic minorities and women in their election campaigns.
The CEC is going to complete the registration process for international observation missions on October 24, while the deadline for local organizations is set on October 21.
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