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ODIHR’s Final Report on October 2021 Local Elections

“A significant imbalance in resources and an undue advantage of incumbency, such as through the announcements of public projects, promises of social benefits and a plan to raise salaries during the election campaign, further benefited the ruling party,” said the final report on Georgia’s October 2021 local polls prepared by ODIHR’s Election Observation Mission.

The report, unveiled on April 8, reiterated the Mission’s preliminary findings that candidates were generally able to campaign freely, but allegations of intimidation and pressure on voters persisted.

Per the document, voters, candidates and political parties made widespread and consistent reports of vote-buying, misuse of administrative resources, intimidation and pressure in the run-up to both rounds on October 2 and October 30.

“This raised concerns about voters’ ability to cast their vote ’free of fear of retribution,’ at odds with OSCE commitments and other international standards.”

The document noted that the campaign was low-key overall but marked by offensive rhetoric and negative campaigning.

“Most candidates met by the ODIHR EOM stated that they had the ability to campaign freely, including in minority languages, however, pressure on candidates persisted and isolated cases of violence and verbal and physical confrontations intensified closer to election day of both rounds,” it added.

Overall, according to ODIHR, the legal framework provides an adequate basis for the conduct of democratic elections, if implemented in good faith, but it said it is unnecessarily complex and contains gaps and inconsistencies.

It noted that while the Election Code was last amended in June 2021 in implementation of the EU-brokered 19 April agreement, a comprehensive review of the legislation has not taken place.

Unaddressed Recommendations

ODIHR took note of modified composition and appointment of election commissions, a higher proportional component for local elections, and extended time-frames for dispute resolution, mandatory random recounts and additional measures intended to address voter intimidation and the misuse of state resources.

But these changes partially addressed several ODIHR and Venice Commission recommendations, the report said.

Speaking of several previous recommendations that remained unaddressed, ODIHR listed those related to other aspects of electoral dispute resolution, criteria for granting and conducting recounts, as well as further measures over the transparency of campaign finance and countering the misuse of state resources, per the report.

Also, as per the document, the legal framework for campaign finance is comprehensive but several previous ODIHR and GRECO recommendations remain to be addressed, including those related to lowering the limits on donations and spending, and strengthening oversight.

Election Administration

Overall, the election administration managed the technical aspects of the process in a competent and transparent manner and complied with legal deadlines, amid necessary adjustments related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the report underscored.

As per the document, a new pluralistic composition of the CEC contributed to improving the trust in the process and enhanced the level of discussion at its sessions.

However, it stated, trust in the impartiality of district and precinct election commissions (DECs and PECs) remained low due to the procedure for the election and appointment of their members, the alleged influence of the ruling party on the commissions, and the handling of post-election complaints by DECs.

Recounts, Complaints

Noting that an unprecedented number of 811 PEC results were recounted by DECs after the first round, the report said despite providing an additional layer of scrutiny to the tabulation process of these recounts, “insufficient guidelines and a lack of an explicit requirement to recount the signatures on voter lists led to inconsistent approaches, diminishing the accountability of the process.”

It also said the dispute resolution mechanisms overall provide for an expedient process but require additional safeguards to ensure effective remedy.

Similarly, it stated that the mechanism for complaints provides for an expedient dispute resolution, but noted however that the law lacks clear and objective criteria for granting and conducting recounts and annulments, at odds with previous long-standing ODIHR recommendations.

“This gives the DECs and the courts wide discretionary powers to decide. In some cases, DECs may have had a selective approach,” it highlighted.

Among its recommendations, ODIHR said all complaints should be given thorough consideration and the law should not be interpreted or implemented in a manner that further restricts the opportunities for seeking an effective remedy.

The Election Observation Mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for Georgia’s October 2021 local self-government elections consisted of a core team of 12 experts based in Tbilisi and 30 long-term observers, dispatched throughout Georgia the country. It also posted some 245 and 87 short-term observers across Georgia for the first round of polls, and runoffs, respectively.

Read the report in full here.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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