In a strongly worded statement about Georgia’s October 2 local elections, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said today it shares OSCE/ODIHR’s initial assessment that “the elections were technically well-administered, but that the environment was marred by widespread and consistent allegations of intimidation, vote-buying, pressure against candidates and voters, pervasive misuse of citizen observers as party representatives, and an uneven playing field, including in the pre-election period.”
It shared ODIHR’s concerns about “the polarized media landscape, the significant imbalance of resources and insufficient oversight of campaign finances, the under-representation of women in the campaign, reports of misuse of administrative resources, and pressure against journalists,” noting that “while voters were able to cast their votes in a largely calm environment on October 2, the election process is about more than Election Day.”
The U.S. Embassy highlighted that “the continued blurring of the line between state and party resources is deeply disturbing.” “Significant reports about the misuse of administrative resources during the campaign raised doubts about the overall fairness of the elections,” it stressed.
“In many towns and villages, pressure against teachers, law enforcement officers, and other public sector workers reportedly interfered with their ability to exercise their free choice on Election Day,” the statement went on, adding that “this type of abuse has occurred too often in Georgian elections and is wholly incompatible with Georgia’s democratic and Euro-Atlantic ideals.”
“There is a dangerous risk that these and other recurring elections violations are becoming accepted as inevitable. Georgian voters deserve a higher standard of integrity in their election process,” the U.S. Embassy said.
In the statement, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi also commended the work of professional domestic election observation organizations, in particular ISFED, GYLA, PMMG and Transparency International. The U.S. Embassy said these CSOs informed the public with sound and balanced assessments throughout the campaign period.
The Embassy also expressed concerns about the reports that some of these respected NGOs reported barriers to observing the elections.
The statement expressed regrets about actions that are “likely to further polarize and destabilize Georgia’s already tense political situation.” “These actions call into question some political parties’ commitment to the principle that political legitimacy should be won or lost at the ballot box,” noted the U.S. Embassy.