US Embassy, rulling party and government voices over pre-election incidents in Georgia

UNM leaders in Marneuli, where one of the incidents took place., 09 Jun 2014 - 13:42, Tbilisi,Georgia

Numerous incidents in Georgia’s pre-election environment is concerning the United States Embassy in Georgia.

The US Embassy released a statement today stating it was "concerned” by recent incidents including mounting pressure by political parties on election officials and alleged pressure by the Government on election candidates, as Georgia prepared for the June 15 municipal elections.

"We are increasingly concerned about reports of campaign incidents and allegations of Government pressure on candidates to withdraw and of opposition aggression toward election officials in certain specific locations prior to the June 15 municipal elections,” read the Embassy’s statement.

"We call on authorities to objectively investigate these allegations and take steps, both technically and politically, to ensure that the high standards recognized by the international community in the last two elections are met in these upcoming elections. It is important for the Government, each and every party, and every electoral district to play their part in consolidating the highest standards of democracy in this region.”

In recent days incidents between opposition members and various groups of people have intensified.

Three days ago, United National Movement (UNM) members hosted a political campaign in Batumi. Opposition citizens soon arrived and began to confront the UNM group, which led to both sides verbally abusing each other.

On June 5 in Marenuli, another incident occurred where UNM members visited the Marneuli district election commission and demanded an explanation from the Central Election Commission regional head whether he would remove their election candidate for allegedly not complying to election rules.

The Georgian Government Administration responded to the US Embassy statement and said providing a transparent, democratic and free election environment was one of the major challenges facing the country.

"We welcome the involvement of the international community in this process. Our Government has already conducted the Presidential election, which was unanimously recognised by all international election monitoring organisations to be held according to the highest standards of democracy.

"We are confident that the local elections will also be held in this manner. We created every condition for people to have free choice and for the elections to be held through healthy political competition in a peaceful and democratic environment,” read the Government’s statement.

The Government said any action, including political pressure or threats against rivals, or aggression against election administration, from any political party directly threatened the principle of fair elections and ruined the image of the Georgian Government.

"We categorically condemn all forms of violence. All instances of violations of the law will be punished justly and each incident will have adequate time to respond,” read the statement.

The Georgian Dream Coalition released a statement today and called on all political forces and their supporters to act rationally. In the statement, Georgian Dream said it dissociated itself and condemned the recent incidents involving the supporters of political parties in Georgia’s regions.