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OSCE/ODIHR opens Georgian Local Self-Government Election Observation Mission

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, August 27
Observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) held a press conference on the opening of the observation mission to the local elections in Georgia on the 26th of August.

Albert Johnson, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR EOM said that their main mission is to monitor elections and state institutions to ensure that election procedures are properly executed.

ODIHR had previously deployed 16 observers, including those involved in the 2020 parliamentary elections. An introductory meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Central Election Commission has already been held where they were introduced with the team and were explained the details of the mission's activities. Johnson thanked the MFA and the CEC for their cooperation.

The main team of this monitoring mission consists of 12 international experts, 10 are already participating in the states. These are election, political, media analysts. In addition, technical and logistical experts are involved in this mission, the core group is based in Tbilisi, where the mission's temporary office will be for the next 7 weeks. 30 long-term observers are supposed to arrive on September 2nd.

Long-term observers will be deployed to 15 locations across the country to monitor election processes at the regional level. As the head of the mission says, they have requested 350 short-term observers, whose role would be to systematically monitor voting and counting procedures throughout the country.

“An important aspect is that we are observing the elections per the observation methodology established by ODIHR, which has already been revised. This methodology has a 20-year history and 57 states have participated. We will have an administrative process before the election day, we will also monitor the campaign activities, as well as the campaign financing, media environment, and media coverage, as well as the legal framework, the issue of dispute resolutions,” he announced.

Accordingly, several meetings will be held with the election administration, key institutions and organizations, political parties, civil society, as well as media representatives, both on national and regional levels. “Our mission is to include a media monitoring component that generates quantitative, and qualitative evaluations of campaign media coverage. We ensure impartiality and consistency in our evaluation process, even when we return to the same country we observed last time.” Johnson added.

He spoke of the clear criteria for this assessment, which include the OSCE commitments, international standards, and commitments related to democratic elections and national legislation. ODIHR’s previous recommendations in Georgia and the status of their implementation are also taken into account.

According to him, the observation mission is not interested in the election results, but in the election process itself.

“Our role is only to observe and our observations and evaluations will be published in our future reports,” Johnson said.

As he informed me, the mission will publish an interim report 2 weeks before election day, which will be an actual description of the election process. A press conference will be held after election day, where a statement of initial findings and conclusions will be published. The final report will be published 8 weeks after the election process is completed and this report will provide recommendations that should be taken into account by the authorities. The recommendations will indicate the specific methods through which ODIHR wants to work with the government and assist it to ensure that, if necessary, the procedures are in line with the country's OSCE commitments.

According to Johnson, the pandemic certainly poses challenges to observation activities, although ODIHR will fulfill its mandate meticulously.

The Monitoring Mission also undertakes to strictly adhere to the national health protocols introduced in the country and to follow standard operating procedures related to the Covid Pandemic.

Giorgi Kalandarishvili, Chairman of the CEC, says that the involvement of observers in the election process is important. According to him, they want as many local and international observers as possible to be present at the elections.

“We welcome and are pleased that despite the pandemic, the OSCE / ODIHR has been able to carry out its mission. They will be represented by 30 long-term and 350 short-term observers. Other international organizations are also registered to evaluate the elections. Registrations of local observer organizations are carried out daily. I have high hopes that involvement in the processes and findings will be provided as much as possible,” Kalandarishvili said, adding that the CEC has invited election commissions from different countries.