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Georgian Dream being in the majority as the opposition being in the streets: Two Rounds of the Parliamentary Elections

25.11.2020

 
Lado Bichashvili, Shida Kartli

For the first during the eight-year rule of Georgian Dream, the most acute problem of legitimacy arose with regard the Parliamentary Elections of October 31, 2020.  The results of the elections are not recognized by the entire opposition including those who managed to enter the parliament and those parties who failed to win the seat in the Parliament. 

According to the results of the Central Election Commission (CEC), 9 parties entered the 10th Parliament of Georgia. However, apart from Georgian Dream no party is going to take up the seats in the legislative body at this stage.  The opposition accuses the ruling party of bribing voters, overwriting summary protocols drawn up in precinct election commissions and invalidating the votes cast for the opposition. They have already held several large-scale protests over the past month demanding early elections. Further, in the second round of the elections in the majoritarian constituencies, the opposition refused to participate in protest.

Human Rights Center (HRC) monitors all types of elections held in Georgia in recent years. The 2020 Parliamentary Elections were no exception. According to Alex Merebashvili, lawyer within HRC, these elections were a demonstration of force aimed at maintaining  the power by single grouping felt both during the pre-election campaign and on the election day. 

Alex Merebashvili, Lawyer of HRC: "Although the situation at the polling stations on the polling day was more or less peaceful and normal, the election results were much more negatively affected by the procedure of staffing the election commissions, the pre-election environment including  the use of administrative resources, the voter bribery and voter intimidation.  Moreover, the presence of pro-governmental electioneers and coordinators in the vicinity of polling stations on the election day, albeit not prohibited by the law, affected the will of the voters. There were also cases of voter bribery at the polling stations. Of particular concern are the irregularities identified during the vote count and during the subsequent developments significantly impacting the results of the polling. Finally, the recount of the results of different precincts revealed some facts that called into question the credibility of the elections. High probabilities of both ballot box stuffing and so-called  carousel voting were evident.” 

We also asked Alexi Merebashvili to evaluate the second round of the elections as he was immediately observing the election process in Khashuri and Kareli majoritarian constituencies. In the process of the vote count at the Avlevi polling station, the HRC observer found some ballot papers from the second round of the 2018 Presidential Elections, placed in envelopes together with the ballot papers of the majoritarian candidates. Overall, six such ballots papers were found while the CEC  assessing the fact as a vicious joke of some voters and an attempt to discredit the election process.

"As what the second round concerns, despite the fact that the government candidates were in a non-competitive environment, there were more serious violations than in the first round. This was due to the fact that the representatives of the opposition parties did not observe the elections and their representatives were not in the commissions, except for Alliance of Patriots which was not considered as an opposition party in the number of precincts. There was a shortage of neutral observers too. "People were still standing near the polling stations, making notes into their own lists of voters and counting the number of voters going to the polls," said Alexi Merebashvili.

Like the non-governmental sector, opposition parties are talking about the violations revealed on the day of the 2020 Parliamentary Elections. Vasilisa Jabakhidze was actively involved in the work of the campaign office of United National Movement. She recalls the corridor of electioneers of Georgian Dream near the polling station on the election day. 

"These elections established Georgian Dream as an authoritarian regime. On the election day, the members of the criminal world and law enforcers were standing hand to hand near the polling stations and worked together for Georgian Dream. During these elections, voters had to walk through the corridors of the electioneers of Georgian Dream standing  near the polling station influencing the free will of the voters and thus violating the secrecy of the ballot. The most important thing that happened in these elections was that at first the precinct election commissions (PECs) annulled the votes of the opposition parties during the vote count, and then the PECs failed to obtain balanced figures for hundreds of summary protocols. In some cases, the ruling party received more votes than the number of the voters actually coming to the polling station. Our complaints were rejected by the District Election Commissions (DECs), afterwards we appealed to the courts, but the courts found the decisions of DECs to be legal and upheld their decisions leaving unheard the complaints submitted by us. These were the most disgraceful elections in the history of independent Georgia," said Vasilisa Jabakhidze.

The Gori organization of Lelo Georgia also talks about the problem of legitimacy of the elections. Papuna Koberidze, who was a majoritarian candidate in the Gori and Kaspi constituencies, says the election results do not reflect the real attitudes of the public.

"These elections have shown us a main thing that Georgian Dream is going to do everything to remain in power ultimately. Georgian Dream rigged the elections. We are not speaking here about the use of administrative resources, nor about the fact that the electioneers were putting pressure on the voters. We are dealing here with stolen votes. Despite such difficulties and unequal election campaigns, in sum the opposition received more votes than Georgian Dream, but as the elections were rigged Georgian Dream entered the Parliament with a majority. However, Georgian Dream was not joined by the opposition, as we do not recognize the rigged elections: The overwritten protocols, invalidated votes and increased numbers for Georgian Dream. We demand the appointment of early parliamentary elections," said.” Papuna Koberidze.

Eter Jalaghania, a member of European Georgia, is going door-to-door again even after the election campaign, mobilizing voters to take more people to the opposition protests in Tbilisi. Jalaghania says the government should see and hear the voices of people who are not even supporters of a particular party, but are protesting against election rigging. "These were rigged elections, a farce that the governed will not be able to get away with, for rigged elections are never  forgiven in Georgia. Georgian Dream temporarily retains power. Even in the conditions of the pandemic, thousands of people rallied clearly stating that they do not recognize the results of the stolen elections and demand early and fair elections," Jalaghania said.

The Central Election Commission, as well as the ruling party, say the election irregularities could not affect the results.  Representatives of Georgian Dream call on the opposition to enter the Parliament. The opposition sat at the negotiating table with the government, albeit without recognizing the election results as legitimate. Therefore, at this stage, the fate of the 2020 Parliament is uncertain: whether it would be one-party or not.

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