Council of Europe praises Georgia’s July 15 local elections

The Congress received positive acknowledgements concerning media freedom., 15 Oct 2014 - 18:01, Tbilisi,Georgia

The Congress of the Council of Europe is adopting a recommendation following an observation of the local elections in Georgia held in July 15, 2014, which stated the municipal elections were generally well run, technically professionally prepared, notably at the level of the Central Election Commission. 

Following its mission to observe the local elections, on October 15 the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation on this subject.

Congress rapporteur Jos Wienen of the Netherlands said despite a small number of local incidents and individual irregularities, overall the elections were carried out in a "calm and peaceful manner”. This was a heavily discussed issue due to a controversial pre-electoral campaign held in a heated atmosphere that included aggressive rhetoric and violent actions.

The report noted further progress was achieved in the technical aspect of polling in Georgia, which was largely owed to the professional performance of the Central Election Commission under difficult circumstances.

The Congress received positive acknowledgements concerning media freedom, access of political contestants to the media, openness of the electorate and the absence of pressure on voters.

The report also highlighted areas where further improvements needed to be made, including the composition of electoral commissions, the nomination of independent candidates and the counting procedures.

"With regard to the general electoral atmosphere, the Congress urged both the Government and the opposition to contribute to a policy of zero-tolerance towards electoral violence,” the report read.

The Congress believed the Government’s decision to establish a 50 percent plus one vote-threshold for direct election of Mayors and Gamgeblis in the entire country ensured that the heads of the local executive bodies were elected by the majority of citizens who used their right to vote and constituted a major contribution to the further strengthening of democracy at grassroots level and the accountability of local representatives in Georgia.

The recommendations read that the necessity of second-round elections in eight self-governing cities and 13 municipalities, organised on July 12, 2014, proved that a competitive electoral environment was evolving in the country and this fact contributed to the democratic system of checks and balances.

When compared to the Congress recommendations from 2010, many improvements had been made. Such improvements were noted in awareness raising activities and prevention of misuse of administrative resources for campaign purposes and the process of monitoring party and campaign finances in order to achieve greater transparency.

The report stressed there were some indications, but not enough, that more women were becoming involved in the electoral process.

The Congress delegation identified areas where further progress needed to be made. This included:

  • The composition of precinct and district election commissions to ensure more equal representation of parties in power and in opposition and more diverse leadership;
  • The possibility for independent candidates to run in the elections through the right of initiative groups to nominate candidates for Mayor/Gamgebeli;
  • The confidence-building role and the effectiveness of the Inter Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections (IATF);
  • The training of members of precinct and district election commissions, in particular with regard to the counting procedures.