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HRC’s preliminary assessment of the Parliamentary Election

31.10.2020

Press-Release - 31.10.202020:00 pm

According to the reports of the HRC’s observers, in the last hours of the 2020 Parliamentary Elections, situation got tense in several polling stations and violent incidents were observed, which harmed the peaceful and fair election process. HRC’s observers faced obstacles from the side of the PEC chairpersons when they tried to register the complaints. In one of the precincts, the PEC members tried to expel the HRC observer from the precinct. 

HRC monitors observe the 2020 Parliamentary Elections in seven regions of Georgia – 1. Kakheti – the ethnic minorities inhabited villages of Sagarejo and Akhmeta municipalities; 2. KvemoKartli – the ethnic minorities inhabited villages of Gardabani, Marneuli and Bolnisi municipalities; 3. Samegrelo – the villages of Zugdidi municipality adjacent to the occupation line; 4. ShidaKartli – the villages of Gori, Khashuri and Kareli municipalities adjacent to the occupation line, and 5-7) Imereti, Adjara and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions. 

The journalists of the online edition of Human Rights Center – humanrights.ge also observe and report about the election violations in the polling stations. The information provided by the HRC observers and journalists is published on the facebook page of the organization and on the online newspaper www.humanrights.ge in Georgian and English languages; the information is sent to media organizations. 

HRC monitors attended the election process from the moment of opening the polling stations up to the end of the counting procedures and the completion of final protocols. At this moment, all of them are in the polling stations and are observing the votes counting process. It is significant that the election administration ensured counting procedure in peaceful and fair environment. The political parties shall protect the votes only with peaceful and legitimate methods and must not tense the situation. 

In accordance with the initial assessment of Human Rights Center, in the polling stations where the organization has deployed its observers, they observed the violations and miscarriages which may not significantly affect the final results of the elections. However, at the same time, it is important that district and central election commissions had adequate reaction to the observed violations and violent incidents and took lawful measures against the violator PEC members and chairpersons. 

HRC shall lodge the complaints regarding the violations of the election procedures to the district election commissions and to the Central Election Commission and where necessary to the courts.  HRC observers shall follow all the proceeding with regard to the complaints up to the end of obtaining final results. 

Big part of the election violations observed by the HRC observers during the 2020 Parliamentary Elections are caused by the low qualification of the PEC members that was very common tendency during the recent elections too. Fair remarks and complaints of the HRC observers about the violations and miscarriages of the PEC members and the chairpersons often irritate them and it creates tension and sometimes conflicts. 

Many times, the observation organizations reported that in the ethnic minority inhabited villages the PEC chairpersons do not know the state language – Georgia for what they cannot properly communicate the observers and voters. 

Like during recent elections, excessive activity and attempt to control the voters by the coordinators and agitators of political parties is still an alarming tendency. Although respective amendments were introduced to the Election Code and the coordinators of the political parties were prohibited to be present within 25 meters distance of the polling stations, HRC will again reflect this problem in its monitoring report and will underline that mobilization of the coordinators of the political parties, particularly of the ruling party Georgian Dream, within and beyond the 25 meters distance from the precincts is one of the main problems on the Election Day. They are counting the voters who have come, make notes in their lists, talk with them and sometimes they conduct agitations. Similar facts, directly or indirectly, hinder the voters to express their free will. 

By 20:00 pm, HRC observers lodged 18 complaints to the PECs and made up to 45 notes in the logbook. 

Content of most part of the complaints is:

 Bolnisi, Precinct # 14.23.47 - a voter was not marked that caused disorder and conflict in the polling station. Observer of the political subject “Power is in Unity” stated that the same registrar had not marked few other voters either. The HRC observer lodged a complaint to the PEC.

 Tskaltubo, precinct # 22.58.02 - The supervisor of the ballot box gave two envelopes to a voter and the voter dropped the two ballot papers separately in the ballot box. HRC observer requested disciplinary liability of the violator.

 Kutaisi, precinct # 23.59.10 – a regulator of the flow did not regulate the flow of the voters in the precinct that resulted into chaos. After the reprimand and warning, the HRC observer lodged a complaint both to the PEC and DEC. The PEC chairperson initially refused to register the complaint. After the warning that it could cause his administrative liability, the PEC chairperson allowed the HRC observer to register the complaint. 

 Gardabani, Kesalo villageprecinct # 64– HRC observer was holding a cell-phone but was not photo or video-recording anything. The PEC chairperson prohibited him to take photos and threatened with dismissing him from the precinct. The observer lodged a complaint about the restriction of his rights. 

 Batumi, precinct # 28.79.19 two observers from the political parties were recording the names of the voters, who had arrived at the precinct. HRC observer asked the PEC chairperson to react to the fact as this action may contain the signs of influence on the free will of voters. The PEC chairperson did not react and stated that just the opposite this action protected the precinct from the so-called carousel. The HRC observer lodged a complaint. 

 Bolnisi. Precinct # 14.23.51 – there was chaos in the precinct from the early morning. A group of people was mobilized in the yard, who created a so-called passage. Some of them used to enter the precinct to help concrete voters and created disorder. The PEC chairperson was not responsive to these violations and did not try to combat the influence on the free will of voters in the yard of the polling station.

 Marneuli, precinct 13.22.72 – in the polling process, at 12:00 pm, the PEC chairperson indicated in the demonstration protocol that 270 voters had arrived at the precinct by 12:00 pm. However, the registrars had not counted the real number of signatures. As the chairperson stated, he wrote approximate figure in the protocol. Based on the request of the HRC observer they re-counted the signatures and estimated that 257 voters had arrived by that moment. 

 Gori, Precinct # 15.32.38 –representatives of various election subjects often tried to communicate the voters, were speaking loudly and tried to find out the names of the voters. The HRC observer recommended the PEC chairperson to control the situation. Finally the observer lodged a complaint and requested to dismiss the violators from the polling station. 

Elections without Guns! 

Today, a photo was shared in the social network, which shows that the member of the United National Movement, former minister of defense and minister of education, DimitryShashkin, together with his supporters, carried firearms. Reportedly, the photo was taken nearby the polling station in Talaveri village of Bolnisi Municipality. DimitryShashkin confirmed that he really had firearms in Talaveri village today, though he categorically denied the information that it happened nearby the polling station. 

With regard to this fact, the majoritarian candidate of the United National Movement in Dmanisi, Tsalka, Bolnisi and Tetritskaro election districts KakhaOkriashvili also made a comment with media. He said he is also carrying firearm and both he and DimitryShashkin have official right to carry firearms. 

HRC believes that although any individual may have right to posses weapon in accordance with the law, similar facts significantly damage peaceful election environment in the country and raises doubts that concrete political subjects are interested to influence the free will of the voters that is particularly alarming on the Election Day, in the vicinities of the polling stations. Although possession of the firearms is not violation of the law, it creates discomfort for the voters as they feel being under the control and their right to free choice is restricted.

Above that, for the prevention of the control of the free will of voters, in accordance with the acting regulations, presence of police officers and armed people, in general, is allowed only in exceptional cases in the vicinities of the polling stations but never inside the precinct. Also, police officers may enter the precinct only based on the request and content of the PEC chairperson if their presence is necessary to prevent public disorder in it. In all other instances, presence of armed people is prohibited both inside and around the polling stations in order to combat influence on the free will of voters. 

The threat of the spread of COVID-19 in polling stations 

With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the main challenge of the 2020 Parliamentary Elections is to hold the polling process in safe environment. Regardless the statement of the Central Election Commission that the safety of the voters will be ensured in all precincts, the information provided by the monitors and spread in social media, shows that overcrowded polling stations is a serious problem for what the commission members cannot ensure the social distancing between them. In the regions, many precincts are located in little spaces and even without voters, they are overcrowded with the PEC members, and stationed observers. As a result, the risk of the spread of the infection is increasing. Another problem is that people enter the precincts without facemasks. There are facts, when the voters do not obey the requests of the observers, PEC members and chairpersons to wear facemasks though they do not have respective medical conclusion that cannot wear facemasks because of health problems. The PEC members and observers also demonstrate low civic culture. 

Violation of sanitary-hygiene norms in the polling station 

HRC observer in the PEC # 5 in the Duisi village, Pankisi Gorge observed blatant violation of the Decree No 38/2020 of the Central Election Commission “On Establishing Certain Election Measures and Sanitary and Hygiene Requirements for the Polling Day of the 31 October 2020 Regular Parliamentary Elections of Georgia for the Purpose of Preventing the Spread of Infection Caused by the Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) (COVID-19)”. 

More precisely, as the video-footage made by the HRC observer shows, a PEC member was not wearing a facemask and she was licking her fingers to pick up a ballot paper before handing it to a voter. 

In accordance with the CEC Decree, the PEC members shall wear facemasks, protection shields and disposable gloves; besides that a person entitled to be present in a polling station shall not be admitted to the polling station without a face mask and treating of the hands with the disinfectant solution. In this particular case, both requirements of the Decree are violated, that creates increased threat of infecting the voters particularly with the increased statistics of COVID-19 cases in the country. 

The individuals authorized to be in the polling stations are obliged to follow all rules determined by the abovementioned decree. 

PEC Chairperson unlawfully expelled HRC observer from the precinct 

HRC is alarmed with the decision of the PEC chairperson to expel the HRC observer GvantsaMikhailidi from the polling station # 72 in Marneuli municipality DEC # 22 (village of Algeti). 

According to the observer’s clarification, two police officers were in the polling station all day long; supposedly they had service guns with them. They had frequent communication with the chairperson of the Precinct Election Commission. 

In accordance with the acting law, a police officer may enter a polling station if his/her presence is necessary to restore or protect public order. There was no similar necessity in the precinct # 72 in Marneuli election district # 22. HRC observer informed the PEC chairperson about the violation, who called on the police officers to leave the territory but they did not obey. The HRC observer repeatedly petitioned the chairperson and in response the chairperson and other members of the PEC verbally insulted her; they demanded the observer to immediately leave the polling station. They drew up a protocol and ordered the observer to leave the vicinities of the polling station. 

CEC representative was in the precinct during the incident who told the HRC observer that as the protocol was already drawn up she could not do anything. However, she had information about the incident before the protocol was signed and as the observer reports, she did not take necessary measures to combat the incident. 

Short time later, upon the content of the PEC members, the HRC observer returned to the polling station and continued observation of the polling process. 

The HRC observer has already lodged complaints about the incident and requested disciplinary liability of the PEC members. 

PEC members and chairperson allegedly drank alcohol in the polling station 

In the precinct # 09.11.50 in the Lambalo village of Sagarejo municipality HRC monitor observed that the PEC chairperson and members were allegedly drinking alcohol. She made a remark in the logbook and lodged a complaint but the chairperson refused to register it. 

The PEC Chairperson was aggressive and tried to intimidate the observer. He also tried to physically assault the HRC coordinator of the observation group in Sagarejo municipality – DimitryNozadze and verbally insulted him. 

The MIA representatives were also informed about the alleged fact of violation but nobody has arrived at the precinct yet to test the PEC members on alcohol.

The HRC observers lodged two complaints to the District Election Commission about the alleged fact of drinking alcohol in the precinct and about the abuse of power by the PEC chairperson. The HRC requests disciplinary liability of the PEC members and the chairman. 

HRC requests to annul results from the mobile ballot box 

In the village of Khidiskuri, Bolnisi municipality, a voter was registered in the list of voters for mobile ballot box, but the PEC members did not bring the box to him at home. Later, the family members brought the voter to the polling station but as it was found out somebody had already signed for him on the voters’ list. As it was found out, the mobile ballot box to another person instead the real voter. HRC observer lodged a complaint to the District Election Commission and requested to annul the results from that mobile ballot box. 

Oppression on the journalist of humanrights.ge 

Bolnisi. In Savaneti village, in the precinct # 51, two strangers harassed the journalist of the HRC’s online edition humanrights.ge Idris Rustamov, who holds the accreditation of a media representative from the Central Election Commission. The harassers tried to seize a camera from him. After the observer made clarifications that he was authorized media observer, the strangers left the vicinities of the polling station. 

Young controllers

HRC observer reported that in Gardabani municipality, the following incident was observed in the precinct # 40 in Nazarlo village: individuals with the lists were sitting at the table nearby the PEC entrance. One of them was wearing a badge stating that he represented the Youth Center Georgia. They were holding the voters entering the PEC and recorded their names. This action contains the signs of attempted influence on the free choice of the voters. In accordance with the July 2020 amendments to the Election Code, within 25 meters distance of the polling station, it is prohibited to hold voters (Article 45 Paragraph 12 of the Election Code). Based on the request of the HRC monitor, the PEC chairperson of the polling station N 40 requested the violators to leave the territory and the problem was eradicated. It is significant to note that the PEC chairperson had adequate reaction to the violation.

Various violations and remarks:

 Batumi, precinct # 28.79.91. A registrar marked a voter before finding his name in the voters’ list. Afterwards it was found out that the voter was not on the list of that particular poling station. 

 Pankisi Gorge, precinct # 24. There was verbal dispute in the polling station. An elderly voter asked for help but the PEC members did not allow another voter to accompany him into a cabin and the man finally voted with the help of magnifying glass. This fact caused controversy but the chairperson soon solved the incident.

 Bolnisi, Savaneti village precinct # 51 was opened 15 minutes later. The PEC members did not manage to arrange the precinct and could not distribute the ballot papers timely. Afterwards, they allowed many people into the precinct together and they managed to keep the recommended social distance only after the HRC observer interfered. 

 Gori, Tirdznisi village, precinct # 62 – the location of the ballot cabins violates the privacy of polling process of voters. According to the rules, the cabins shall be located close to the wall. In PEC # 62, people walk behind the cabins and they can see how the people vote. 

 Adigeni, precinct # 17.38.01 – three representatives of the UNM were in the polling stations together during half an hour. 

 Bolnisi, precinct # 14. 23.37 – a voter take a photo of the ballot paper inside the cabin and the HRC observer made a note in the logbook;

 Pankisi Gorge, precinct # 10.18.05 - third registrar of the polling station Lia Kavtarashvili left the working table and assigned her responsibility to SatsiitMargoshvili. None of them calculated the signatures in this process. The violation was recorded in the logbook. 

 Sagarejo, precinct # 09.11.40 – a voter took a photo of the marked ballot paper and ran away. A note was made in the logbook. 

 Sagarejo, precinct # 09.11.46 – UNN representative EldarJalilov was dismissed from the polling station. Regardless the many remarks of the PEC chairperson, he was speaking with the voters, dictating and agitating. Besides that he was violating the rule of wearing a facemask too. 

 Batumi. Almost in every polling station observers were conducting video-recordings with the special program based on which the voters were identified in order to prevent them from going to other polling stations. The PEC chairpersons did not react to these facts because in general video-recording is allowed in polling stations. 

 Gardabani. 13. 21. 64 in the polling stations voter was allowed to vote based on the driving license. HRC observer gave a remark and the violation was eradicated. 

***

The 2020 Parliamentary Election monitoring projects of Human Rights Center include the observation of both the pre-election period and immediate observation of the polling process on the Election Day.

Stemming from the objectives of the projects, HRC shall monitor the compliance of the Georgian electoral process with international and local standards, facilitate public awareness raising with regard to the current political processes in the regions, and ensure the transparency of the election process in the selected polling stations. 

The information provided by the observers during the Election Day about the identified cases of violations shall be promptly published at www.humanrights.ge which is the online newspaper of HRC in Georgian and English languages and shall be further provided to various media outlets.

HRC shall publish a bilingual report on the violations and other findings identified by the observers during the pre-election period and immediately on the Election Day. The report shall reflect the recommendations towards the Central Election Commission, the Parliament of Georgia and relevant agencies. 

The 2020 Parliamentary Elections monitoring projects are implemented by HRC with a support of the Open Society Georgia Foundation, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the Black Sea Foundation for Regional Cooperation.  

   
Human Rights Center 
 


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