On November 16, the International Republican Institute (IRI) released an interim report on the October 31 parliamentary elections, stating that “the spirit of the reforms, aimed at encouraging multiparty democracy and coalition rule, were affected by credible reports of irregularities in the campaign period and on Election Day.”
The report asserts that the parliamentary elections were held in a generally “peaceful environment,” in accordance with the legislative framework, with respect for citizens’ rights. The election administration met its legal obligations and managed the technical aspects of the elections effectively, according to IRI.
However, from a procedural standpoint, IRI says “a flawed results-management system that is susceptible to manipulation” further diminished public confidence in electoral institutions, “exposing a trend of increasing citizen concern over the independence and professionalism of the Central Election Commission (CEC).”
The report, examining the period from the pre-election environment to the Election Day and following political developments, says that 56.1% voter turnout, despite the high risks of COVID-19 infection, signaled the Georgian public’s “eagerness to participate in a new electoral system created to ensure greater representation and diversity in parliament.”
“The elections held in Georgia did not meet the standards set by the constitutional and electoral reforms,” Stephen Nix, IRI’s Regional Program Director for Eurasia notes.
The U.S. nonprofit also highlights “credible reports of irregularities in the campaign period and on Election Day,” most concerning of which were allegations regarding “misuse of state administrative resources, vote-buying, intimidation of voters and observer groups, manipulation of precinct-level summary protocols.”
IRI says it analyzed a sampling of summary protocols from the CEC website and found “anomalies,” including instances of ballots cast exceeding the number of voter signatures; instances of voters permitted to cast a ballot for a majoritarian candidate outside their voting district; protocol amendments without a stamp; indications of deliberate falsification of summary protocols; summary protocols with obvious mathematical errors, which were initially accepted by District Election Commissions (DECs) and various other irregularities.
According to the report, IRI evaluation of the CEC results-management systems “shows weak mechanisms to enforce and ensure that PEC-level results are adequately cross-checked, mathematically correct and verified before transmission to the DEC level.”
Based on the observation, IRI releases recommendations to the Georgian government, political actors, civil society and media representatives aimed at improving the political environment and quality of runoff elections.
Calling for “constructive dialogue,” IRI recommends political parties to refrain from heated rhetoric and to encourage their supporters to avoid violence, provocation or intimidation. It urges the parties to abstain from and publicly condemn social media manipulations, spreading disinformation among voters.
IRI suggests that all the filed complaints should be reviewed expeditiously, while the votes should be recounted “where evidence of manipulation exists and the integrity of the results count is in question.” In this sense, the organization generally calls on CEC to improve the vote summarizing system and reform the problematic electoral mechanisms vital to conduct free and democratic polls.
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