The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) held the first day of its 2021 hybrid winter plenary session on January 25, debating, among others, the report on the observation of Georgia’s October 31 parliamentary elections.
Opening the discussion, Head of the PACE Observer Delegation to Georgia, Dutch MP Tiny Kox noted that the “political climate in Georgia was tense before the elections, remained tense on election day and in the post-electoral period, which has lasted until now.”
MP Kox urged the Georgian authorities to “check all complaints made about the electoral process,” and called on all parties to “engage in meaningful dialogue to overcome the problems that have risen and to come to a further electoral and judicial reform jointly.”
Having reiterated key points from the joint post-election statement made by four key international observation missions, MP Kox said “the main problem of these elections was not the freeness but the level of fairness.”
“The ruling party did not respect enough the line between itself and the state while campaigning,” he said.
“The other main problem is that other parties decided to boycott participating in the new parliament which goes counter to the very essence of elections – to represent voters,” MP Kox said, noting that the PACE co-rapporteurs for Georgia have already called on the opposition to accept their mandates.
Titus Corlatean, Romanian MP, and PACE co-rapporteur on Georgia singled out polarization as a years-long “concerning issue” in Georgian politics, that in part led the opposition to boycott the new Parliament. He called on the Georgian Gov’t to “seriously investigate” allegations of misconduct, and to the opposition to “be back in the Parliament.”
During the debates, Estonian MP Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski called on the parties to take the “opportunity to work in parliament together.”
“We see that boycott is not the best way to represent the interests of [the] population and stand for the rule of law and human rights,” she added.
She condemned the initiative tabled by the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party to cut budget funding for parties that refuse to take up parliamentary mandates.
The Estonian MP said, however, that she welcomed the creation of a parliamentary ad hoc committee to investigate violations of the past elections, as well as the reform that switched 2024 parliamentary polls to a fully proportional system.
“I cannot agree with your positive assessment of the 2020 elections,” asserted Lithuanian MP Laima Andrikienė, who led the European Parliament’s delegation to observe Georgia’s 2018 Presidential polls.
“According to the local NGOs which have been monitoring the elections in Georgia for many years, these were the worst elections in modern Georgian history,” the lawmaker said, adding that public confidence in the election results is lacking.
“The likely result [of October 31 elections] was the coalition government, the first one in Georgia’s history. But something has gone very wrong on the night of the elections,” MP Andrikienė went on, adding that “Ballot stuffing, and organized pressure on voters with the help of the criminal elements, marginalization of the representatives of the opposition parties and electoral commissions, and finally, rewriting of the summary protocols by the Central Election Commission – those were the tools to deploy by the government to its advantage.”