IRI: Georgia’s pre-election environment “calm and deliberate” compared to 2012

The IRI published its findings after monitoring the pre-election environment in Georgia. Photo by IRI., 15 Sep 2016 - 17:57, Tbilisi,Georgia

The International Republican Institute (IRI) has today released its findings and recommendations ahead of the October 8 Parliamentary Elections in Georgia, stressing the pre-election environment is calmer and more deliberate than in 2012 under the previous government. 

IRI, a non-profit foreign organisation supporting freedom and democracy worldwide, said its report described the situation in Georgia from August 1-25. During this time the organisation’s long-term observers held 479 meetings with election stakeholders in Georgia.

The pre-election campaign environment has been consistently identified by political parties and non-governmental organisations as calm and deliberate, particularly compared to the 2012 parliamentary elections,” said the IRI report.
The media environment is widely perceived as fair and balanced, despite ongoing ownership controversies,” it added.

Pre-election campaigning officialy began in Georgia on June 8 – four months ahead of Election Day. 

The report findings noted "pro-Russian parties remain weak, but have gained some support despite anti-Western sentiments in an overwhelmingly pro-Western environment”. 

The IRI survey said this year’s elections were more gender equal as a large proportion of women were selected to serve on Precinct Election Commissions and more applications were received from Georgian youth to take part in the election process. 

The IRI provided three recommendations: 

  • The District Election Commissioners to participate in the Precinct Election Commission selection process without pre-determined lists or demonstrable party preference. The IRI also called on the Central Election Commission to engage with political parties in a neutral and professional manner in order to avoid even the appearance of bias. 
  • On numerous occasions, the opposition United National Movement party utilised videos featuring former president Mikheil Saakashvili—who is no longer a Georgian citizen—for campaigning purposes. This was a clear violation of the Georgian Election Code, which stipulates that foreign citizens should not be involved in the campaign process. IRI’s observers recommend that UNM immediately cease this practice. 
  • Local officials affiliated with the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party need to be more conscious of their roles as public servants, and mitigate the perception that they are using their authority to disadvantage their political opponents and intimidate voters.

See the IRI’s full report here.