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PACE representative says election ‘tainted’

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, January 22
Matyas Eorsi, a rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), echoed broad approval of the validity of Georgia’s presidential election yesterday, but warned that Tbilisi must address reported election violations without delay.

Eorsi was leading an ad hoc PACE committee taking party in the OSCE election observation mission.

His report, released January 21, noted problems with voter lists, inking of voters’ fingers, election commission conduct, tallying procedures and reports of intimidation, among other concerns.

Noting that Georgia’s political climate is “dominated by the schism between government and opposition,” Eorsi said that the Georgian government has much work to do before the spring parliamentary elections.

“It is beyond doubt that the violations and irregularities raise questions regarding the credibility of these elections in the eyes of the Georgian people. This is the main challenge that the Georgian authorities need to address without delay,” his report read.

His 11 teams went to many of the country’s larger towns to observe the voting on January 5.

Observers directly witnessed tampering with results protocols in eight percent of precincts they visited, something Eorsi said was of “considerable concern.”

He also noted the apparently illegal decision of district-level commissions to unilaterally make corrections to some precincts’ vote protocols.

Observers saw “unrealistically high turnout” late on Election Day in a significant number of precincts, Eorsi reported. In some precincts, he calculated, the high turnout translated to one voter casting a ballot every 13 seconds.

“[In some precincts] significant numbers of ballots were filled out identically, which could be an indication of tampering. However, all these ballots were declared valid,” the report continued.

Eorsi said he was “considerably concerned” by the election commissions’ and courts’ apparently inadequate consideration of complaints, but welcomed news that authorities have filed criminal investigations related to some reported violations.

“Regrettably, the problems and violations encountered, some of them serious, especially during the vote count and tabulation, taint the overall election process,” the report said.