OSCE/ODIHR and European Parliament (EP) observation missions have assessed Georgian municipal election run-offs held yesterday, stating that the race ‘was generally competitive and organized professionally’, but increasing polarization and negative rhetoric, as well as allegations of voter intimidation and the ‘continuing advantage of incumbency, demonstrated the need for further reforms.
While these elections were well organised and transparent, there were a number of shortcomings that became evident in the run-up to the second round as the tone of the political debate became increasingly confrontational and claims of pressure and intimidation continued,” said Albert Jonsson, head of ODIHR election observation mission.
The observers said that while the elections were technically well run, concerns over the impartiality of election commissions at the lower level persisted.
Election day itself was generally calm, although there were instances of mutual provocation by supporters of political parties outside polling stations. The observers assessed the opening and voting procedures positively in most polling stations, but the ongoing practice of representatives of observer organizations acting as party supporters and at times interfering with the process remains of concern,” said the statement.
#Georgia’s local #election run-off competitive and well run, but undermined by deepening polarization and continued unlevel playing field: international observers https://t.co/nbrbGultWb pic.twitter.com/vfwsjbUSNf— OSCE/ODIHR (@osce_odihr) October 31, 2021
The international observers stated that candidates were able to campaign freely, noting that there was an ‘increasing focus’ on national issues, making for a fierce political competition, greater polarization and an increasingly offensive rhetoric.
They stated that polarization continued to be the ‘key characteristic’ of the media environment ahead of the second round, with many private television channels either voicing clear support for the ruling party and providing negative coverage of the opposition or vice versa.
The election was calm and well run, and the administrative staff well trained and instructed. My sincere thanks to the many Georgian women who worked in the commissions, where they represented the overwhelming majority of staff. At the same time very few candidates were women, and I expect and hope this will change in the time to come,” said Inese Vaidere, head of the EP delegation.
The international election observation to the second round of the local elections in Georgia totalled 149 observers from 31 countries, including 142 ODIHR experts and long- and short-term observers, and seven from the EP.