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Pre-election campaigns calm in Georgia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, September 19
The International Republican Institute (IRI) has aired its findings and recommendations ahead of Georgia’s October 8 Parliamentary Elections, stressing that the pre-election period is more calm and deliberate than in 2012 [under the previous government], yet allegations of misuse of administrative resources by local elected officials persist.

The IRI, a non-profit foreign organization supporting freedom and democracy worldwide, said the report described the situation in Georgia between August 1 and August 25.

The organization said its long-term observers held a total of 479 meetings with election stakeholders during the period.

“The pre-election campaign environment has been consistently identified by political parties and non-governmental organizations as calm and deliberate, particularly compared to the 2012 parliamentary elections yet allegations of misuse of administrative resources by local elected officials persist, ” the report said, referring to pre-election campaigning which officially launched from June 8.

“The media environment is widely perceived as fair and balanced, despite ongoing ownership controversies,” the report added.

The survey said a large proportion of women were selected to serve on Precinct Election Commissions and more applications were received from youth to take part in the election process.

“Despite incentives to include more women on party lists, women remain underrepresented as candidates,” the report added.

The findings stressed that “pro-Russian parties remain weak, but have gained some support despite anti-Western sentiments in an overwhelmingly pro-Western environment”.

The report also said while steps have been made to accommodate ethnic minority voters, they remain underrepresented in election administration, and are even disenfranchised.

In a final note, the IRI provided three recommendations:

The District Election Commissioners to participate in the Precinct Election Commission selection process without pre-determined lists or demonstrable party preference. In addition, IRI’s observers call on the Central Election Commission to engage with political parties in a neutral and professional manner in order to avoid even the appearance of bias.

On numerous occasions, the opposition United National Movement party has utilized videos featuring former President Mikheil Saakashvili—who is no longer a Georgian citizen—for campaigning purposes. This is a clear violation of the Georgian Election Code, which stipulates that foreign citizens should not be involved in the campaign process. IRI observers recommend that UNM immediately cease this practice.

Local officials affiliated with the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia Party need to be more conscious of their roles as public servants, and mitigate the perception that they are using their authority to disadvantage their political opponents and intimidate voters.