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Nongovernmental organizations evaluate the presidential elections of 2018


Lana Giorgidze 

On October 28, Presidential Elections were held in Georgia. According to the preliminary results, which rely on the data collected from 3 705 polling stations, independent candidate Salome Zurabishvili, who was supported by the ruling party Georgian Dream, received 38,64% of votes; as for the candidate of the United National Movement Grigol Vashadze, who was backed by the united opposition, received 37,74% of votes. In order to be elected president, a candidate shall gather more than 50% of votes. Consequently, Salome Zurabishvili and Grigol Vashadze will go into the second round of the elections, which shall be held by December 2, 2018. 

According to the Central Election Commission, estimated number of registered voters is 3 518 877, which includes citizens of Georgia registered in foreign countries – 14 795 persons. On October 28, by 20:00 pm, 1 637 956 voters had participated in the polls that is 46, 74% of the registered voters. 

Media, local and international nongovernmental organizations observed the 2018 Presidential Elections in Georgia. 

The observers of Human Rights Center are monitoring the Presidential Elections in Kakheti, Shida Kartli and Kvemo Kartli regions. 25 Monitors of HRC are deployed in the ethnic-minority inhabited villages of Sagarejo and Marneuli municipalities; in Akhmeta municipality – namely in Pankisi Gorge and in the ABL villages in Gori municipality.

On the Election Day, HRC lodged 2 complaints and made several notes in the logbook. The District Election Commission already examined one of the complaints and imposed disciplinary sanction on the PEC member – warning. HRC observer’s complaint was about the violation observed in Tazakendi village precinct N 13 in Marneuli election district N22, where a voter signed in the box of another voter. After the HRC observer made a remark, the voter rushed out of the precinct and no longer participated in the elections. The registrar refused to make a clarification in the box that the signature was made by unauthorized person. 

The second complaint was about the violation observed in the Iormuganlo village precinct N 42 in Sagarejo municipality. HRC observer reported that significant violation was observed during the counting of votes in the precinct. The envelopes, where the ballot papers were placed, were marked by pen. HRC observer lodged a complaint to the PEC and Sagarejo DEC N 11. The complaint of the Center was satisfied and based on the October 30 decision of the Sagarejo DEC, the commission member was warned. 

According to the HRC monitors, often PEC members make mistakes, which are promptly improved after their remarks.

“it is a pity that low qualification of the PEC members is still a challenge for the election administration. Majority of procedural violations made by the PEC members are caused by their low qualification and lack of knowledge of election law rather than the desire to fraud the elections. These problems are particularly frequent in the ethnic-minority inhabited villages, where incompetence of the PEC members often cause tension and sometimes conflicts.”

“Like during previous elections in Georgia, excessive activity and attempt to control the voters by the coordinators and agitators of political parties have become an alarming tendency. “Counters of the voters” are deployed in all polling stations and control supporters of the political parties. They count who has come and who has not among those, whom they recorded in advance. They are speaking with the voters and sometimes it has form of direct agitation,” HRC states in its press-release.

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) monitored the 2018 Presidential Elections in the whole territory of Georgia. The monitoring mission of the ISFED was composed of observers in about 800 precincts, 73 DECs and 78 mobile groups of observers. On the Election Day, analysis and incident center with 15 operators and 10 lawyers was working in the head office  

According to the information disseminated by the ISFED, the disturbing trend of mobilization of party activists still continues and is happening across the districts. These activists are noting which voters go to the stations. This method is mostly used by the activists of the “Georgian Dream”, however, representatives of the “United National Movement” were using similar tactics. ISFED also singled out other violations, among them: Alleged attempt to influence the voters’ will; campaigning, Limitation of observers’ rights, violation of the privacy of voting, voting instead of other voter; voting with improper documents, inadequate handling of electoral documentation, voting without marking, etc. ISFED lodged 48 complaints to PECs and 43 to DECs.

According to the reports of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, overall, the Election Day was calm and voters had a possibility to express their will in the free environment. According to information provided by GYLA observers, the violations, identified during the voting process (between 08:00 and 20:00) did not have a significant impact on the electoral process.

“Throughout the entire day, voter mobilization and alleged control over voters’ will was quite intensive. Despite the legislative amendments, which regulated the personal data processing at a polling station, the regulations omit the personal data processing outside the polling station. GYLA has been indicating this damaging practice for years, which requires a proper legislative regulation. 

It must be stressed that alleged control over voters’ will and their personal data processing is problematic not only on the Election Day, but also in the pre-election period.

In comparison with the previous elections, 2018 elections were marked not only with the alleged control over voters’ will by the political party coordinators, but also, the new tendency evolved: the electoral headquarters of ruling party-supported Salome Zurabishvili, calling voters for the same purpose. Furthermore, substantial violations were revealed, including alleged vote bribery, which might indicate the elements of a criminal offence (precinct #56 of Samgori district); physical confrontation (precinct #59 of Marneuli district) and the fact of taking the ballot from the polling station (precinct #52 of Saburtalo district and precinct #78 of Samgori district),” the press-release of the GYLA reads. 

As reported by the Transparency International – Georgia, they identified 130 insignificant and relatively serious violations. In total, we filed 12 complaints. The following trends are to be noted: active mobilization of voters and alleged instances of vote buying; alleged fixing of the elections; low qualifications of members of the precinct electoral commissions; interference/intimidation against our observers; issues with the mobile ballot box, issues with the voters list. 

Nongovernmental organizations mainly report about active mobilization of voters and low qualification of the PEC members, as well as issues with the voters list. 

The USA Embassy in Georgia also underlined the issue of “mobilization of voters through inappropriate means” and stated: “We share international and domestic observer organizations’ concerns about shortcomings in the election process, such as mobilization of voters through inappropriate means and instances of misuse of administrative resources, and stress the importance of addressing these shortcomings in the second round.”

As for the results of the elections, the DECs shall summarize the results from the Presidential Elections no later than November 8 and no later than November 17 the CEC will summarize the results of the Presidential Elections of Georgia. The CEC already confirmed that second round of the presidential elections are necessary to have final results. 

According to the CEC< about 500 complaints were lodged to the DECs. 
“Majority of the complaints referred to procedural deficiencies, mostly requesting imposing disciplinary liability measures against members of the commissions. Though, other types of complaints were also submitted at DECs which will be responded accordingly,” the announcement of the CEC reads.
The second round of the presidential elections shall be held before December 2, 2018. The elected candidate will be the President of Georgia for 6 years. 

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