The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), a local watchdog, released on October 22 its fifth interim report on the pre-election environment ahead of October 31 parliamentary polls. According to the report, as polling day draws closer, incidents of pressure, threats, obstruction and violence on voters, activists and opposition politicians remain the key challenges of the pre-election environment.
In the document, covering a period from September 29 to October 21, as well as some developments that began before the said date, the watchdog identified nine alleged cases of politically motivated violence; 37 instances of alleged political pressure/threats; two supposed cases of pressuring the media; one alleged case of obstructing an observer’s activities; 10 supposed instances of vote-buying; three alleged dismissals on political grounds; 18 possible cases of the use of administrative resources; 16 instances of participation of unauthorized persons and three instances of participation of religious organizations in the election campaign; two wide-scale charity projects and instances of damaging agitation materials throughout the whole country.
The watchdog expressed its concern over violent incidents involving media, namely the September 29 attack on Mtavari Arkhi TV and Georgian Public Broadcaster’s journalists in Marneuli, alleged death threats against TV Pirveli founder’s father, as well as the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics finding that current director-general of Imedi TV had previously interfered with Maestro TV journalists’ editorial independence.
According to the report, in the regions, ruling Georgian Dream party activists or staff of local government bodies allegedly often attend opposition politicians’ meetings to monitor and identify attendees, which could constitute political pressure on voters. The watchdog also reported that in some instances opposition parties’ regional campaign staffers have refused to continue working supposedly to “avoid having problems with central or local governments.”
The report also identified alleged cases of election commission members, as well as religious figures, public servants and city halls’ staff participating in the election campaign in favor of the ruling party.
The watchdog stated that the head of the mine of Georgian Manganese LLC, a leading firm in mining manganese and ferroalloys in west-Georgian town of Chiatura, allegedly controls the political activities of the company’s workers.
ISFED voiced concern that public school directors and teachers may be coerced into participating in the election campaign by fear of losing their jobs.
The watchdog stated that its observer’s activities were obstructed in Dedoplistskaro, eastern Kakheti region, when monitoring an opposition party’s meeting, adding that an investigation is ongoing, under Article 151 (1) of the Criminal Code of Georgia, involving a threat of death or bodily injury or destruction of property.
The report stated that the United National Movement party has reported instances of pressure on their supporters and election commission members after party leader Mikheil Saakashvili stated online that Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory.
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