In its final report on the October 31, 2020 parliamentary elections, the International Society For Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), a local election watchdog, said pre-election pressure, threats, vote buying, misuse of administrative resources, as well as ruling party domination in election commissions and discrepancies in summary protocols “significantly reduced confidence in the electoral process.”
While the constitutional and electoral reforms ahead of the parliamentary polls marked “a step forward,” rules for staffing the election administration remained unchanged, casting doubt on the impartiality and independence of the body, said the report released on April 7.
ISFED reported that the large number of revised and unbalanced summary protocols, as well as the insufficient process of rectifying these shortcomings “failed to meet standards of reliability.” The process of responding to complaints of election irregularities by both the Election Administration and the common courts also could not meet “the standards set for election dispute resolution,” the watchdog underscored.
The watchdog noted that ruling Georgian Dream party representatives, including municipality officials, directly gave out government social assistance during the pre-election period, which, in turn, blurred the line between state and ruling party.
According to the CSO, public “schools and their administrations, again, were characterized by a high degree of politicization,” despite legislative changes which restricted participation in election agitation for public servants.
Physical confrontation and threats, especially in regions, remained a challenge during the election period, ISFED said, adding that attempts to pressure election monitors, civic activists and media representatives also took place. “An important issue was the unfavorable environment towards female candidates,” including reports of blackmail, the watchdog noted.
As for the voting inside polling stations on election day, ISFED said the process largely proceeded without significant irregularities. However, noted the CSO, mass mobilization of party activists and identification of voters in the outer perimeter of polling stations were observed. “This practice has been a problem for years and has been assessed as a mechanism for controlling the free will of the voter,” it said.
In addition, ISFED underscored that the finances received and spent by the ruling party in the pre-election period “significantly exceeded the [financial] resources of the opposition parties,” leading to unequal campaigning conditions.
Political parties and candidates, for the most part, refused to use media platforms affiliated with their opponents, resulting in “extreme polarization” and undermining voters’ ability to make informed choices during the elections, the watchdog reported.
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