Watchdogs List Problems in Campaigning ahead of Polls

Watchdogs List Problems in Campaigning ahead of Polls

Watchdogs List Problems in Campaigning ahead of Polls

The FINANCIAL -- In their interim reports released on October 25, two local election watchdogs Transparency International Georgia (TI) and International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) focused on the use of administrative resources ahead of the October 28 presidential elections.

According to ISFED, election observation was carried out in a period of October 1-24, but covers a number of facts that took place before October 1. This is ISFED’s third interim report covering the pre-election period. The report released by TI covers the period from June 1 through October 20, according to civil.ge.

ISFED: polarized environment

ISFED said in its report that election campaign became “noticeably polarized” after it entered its final stage. It also focused on frequent cases of legal violations that “poses a threat to equal and free pre-election environment for electoral subjects.”

Among elements of violations documented in the reporting period, the local watchdog lists the cases of pressure and coercion, physical confrontation and violence, use of administrative resources, voter bribing, illegal participation in agitation, damage of campaign materials and violation of campaigning rules.

The report also notes, that the campaign activities in the regions were impeded by counter-campaigners, especially this concerned the events by Salome Zurabishvili. However, the campaign posters of the opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze were often destroyed or vandalized.

ISFED said that it has already filed 32 complaints to the election administration concerning the cases of illegal agitation, use of administrative resources and violation of campaigning rules. They note, that CEC has already registered two administrative offenses on illegal use of communication means for agitation purposes. In cases of agitation via social networks by officials, the report notes that district commissions have uniformly decided not to sanction them, taking for the face value that the posts in question were made by other family members.

TI Georgia: negative campaigning, use of administrative resources

Transparency International Georgia in its report highlighted problems in selecting non-partisan members of the district and precinct election commissions. The report also singles out the decision of the Georgian National Communications Commission’s (GNNC) to oblige the broadcasters to verify the validity of the public opinion polls they publish. In addition, according to report, the GNNC had been biased in defining the criteria for airing or removing some political ads on TV.

The report also puts emphasis on negative atmosphere created by publication of secretly recorded tapes, and criticizes the mode of involvement by the prosecution and interior minister.

The organisation points out, that physical violence has been largely absent from the campaign, although events held by Salome Zurabishvili were also tense due to counter-agitation by opponents.

While administrative resources were used in several cases by the ruling party to promote their chosen candidate, the use of public financial resources for that purpose was not registered, according to the report.

“Attacks” on CSOs

The both election watchdogs argue that “attacks by senior governmental and ruling party officials on election observation organizations and their attempts to discredit them have become more intensive.” They presented the statements by Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze and Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani concerning civil society organizations as examples of such attacks.

Recommendations

The two election watchdogs called on the government to refrain from attacking election observation organizations, and urged the ruling party to cease illegal agitation and use of administrative resources.

They also recommended the political parties not to obstruct their opponents’ election campaigns and refrain from actions, which can be interpreted as voter bribing.

TI called on prosecution and police to distance themselves clearly from the political process.

ISFED stressed, that the local government bodies bear responsibility to stop practices of tasking the public officials to compile the “supporter lists” for a candidate, of obliging local government employees to participate in campaign events or to agitate during working hours.