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ISFED uncovers pre-election foul play

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, May 23
The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) released the results of the monitoring of the pre-election environment in 73 districts throughout Georgia via its long-term observers (LTOs). The first interim report covers the period from April 1 to May 4, 2012- this includes the events that have occurred before April 1 but have been ongoing throughout.

According to ISFED monitoring, possible cases of political intimidation have been observed during the monitoring period. Among them were 10 cases of dismissal from work; 10 cases involving threats; 6 cases of politically motivated intimidation on private business owners; and 3 cases of hindering journalist activity. ISFED assesses some of these specific cases as being criminal offences.

The report also addresses significant trends that might be connected to cases of the misuse of administrative resources.

It should be pointed out that almost all violations mentioned in the report have been carried out against supporters of the Georgian Dream coalition and their relatives. The difficulties concerning office rental instances were also related to the coalition, as coalition members had negotiated agreements on the rental of office spaces, but due to the pressure placed on the owners through the local government representatives, members were refused the rental space for their offices.

ISFED hopes that the cases reflected in the report will not be left without investigation and appropriate measures will be taken. The organization continues the monitoring of the pre-election environment and will present the interim report for the month of May in mid-June.

Head of the Election and Political Technology Research Centre, Kakha Kakhishvili, is less hopeful that the current government of Georgia will change its position, and doubts the parliamentary elections will impose any serious change in the state: “I do not wait [for democracy] in these elections. What can be changed? Aside from the Christian-Democratic Movement, there might be four opposition parties in the parliament, but I do not wait for this fact to change the level of democracy in the state, as the process requires time,” Kakhishvili says. He also feels that if the current ruling party comes into power again, it will be “catastrophic” for the state, as “Saakashvili will think that no one will be able to oppose him and more catastrophic decisions will be made.”

Unlike Kakhishvili, analyst Paata Zakareishvili considers that the current leadership of Georgia will fail in the elections anywhere, “I am sure they will lose in the parliamentary elections, they do not even have the people to fill the list; people have fled from their party and currently they are going to fill the majority of the candidate lists with singers and such …”