ISFED Issues Final Assessment of 2021 Local Polls

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), key election watchdog, presented today its final monitoring report of October 2 local polls and October 31 runoffs. 

The watchdog stressed in a press release for the report that in the second rounds, electoral violations and negative trends could have affected the election results in municipalities with narrow victories. 

As for the overall assessment, ISFED stated that the municipal polls “were more or less competitive” and the election days were “largely well-administered.” 

But the watchdog highlighted that the financial and administrative resources in hands of the ruling Georgian Dream party “hindered the provision of an equal electoral environment.” 

Citing State Audit Office data, ISFED pointed out that the revenues of the GD were more than double the sum of the money received by the next four parties in terms of income. ISFED also stressed that “the line between the party and the state was traditionally blurred.” 

Also, ISFED said that a high number of instances of political pressure, threats, dismissals and coercion, as well as the inadequate response of the authorities to the cases negatively impacted the electoral environment.

Meanwhile, according to the watchdog, during the election days suspicious gatherings of people nearby polling stations, voter registration, alleged vote-buying and other irregularities negatively impacted the confidence in the electoral process. The CSO added that the said activities are “a mechanism for controlling the free will of the voters.” 

ISFED monitors took note of “an alarming and large-scale appearance” of party-affiliated people posing as legitimate election observers. The watchdog claimed that observers acting in favor of the governing party often disrupted the election process, interfered with the election commissions, obstructed impartial observers, and controlled voter registration and their will. 

As for the press, ISFED highlighted that the media environment was “sharply polarized.” According to the CSO, voters could not receive balanced information from traditional media outlets, “which affects their ability to make informed choices.” ISFED stressed however that the level of polarization was lower in online publications. 

Continuing about the media, the watchdog highlighted that cases of obstruction of professional activities of journalists, including attacks on them, “fuelled by aggressive and discrediting statements of officials.”

The watchdog welcomed new rules which had obligated District Election Commissions to randomly recount polling stations, but noted that monitoring the recounts adequately was not possible as they took place simultaneously at the DECs.

ISFED also criticized the Central Election Commission for failing to “adequately react” to certain violations, and slammed DECs and the Courts continuing with the “practice of superficial review of complaints.”  

It also criticized the CEC for “delaying” to summon the first sessions of the Municipal Councils (Sakrebulo), which allowed outgoing councilors to approve the 2022 budgets in several Sakrebulos. 

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