NDI report: Georgian elections well-administered, electoral, political flaws affected process

NDI has released its report on Georgian municipal elections. Photo: Nino Alavidze/Agenda.ge.

Agenda.ge, 15 Dec 2021 - 15:33, Tbilisi,Georgia

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) has released its report on the October 2021Georgian  municipal elections which says that the race was ‘generally well administered,’ but ‘deep flaws in the electoral and, significantly, the political environment, adversely affected the process.’ 

NDI says that the municipal elections took place in the context of a ‘protracted political impasse’ in the aftermath of 2020 parliamentary elections and were seen by many as a ‘litmus test for Georgia’s democratic path.’ 

It said that while the municipal elections are typically the occasion for citizens to focus on local concerns and community leadership, the events of the previous year, ‘including an expectation that snap parliamentary elections would be called if the ruling party did not reach 43 percent of the vote’, raised the political stakes for all parties. 

Harsh rhetoric and exchanges of insults dominated the campaign period, while the focus on national-level narratives overshadowed local-level concerns. The responsibility for public skepticism is shared across the political spectrum as partisan gains appear to have been prioritized over the needs of the Georgian public,” NDI said. 

The report says that Georgian voters, election workers, and nonpartisan citizen election observers ‘demonstrated their determination’ to ensure Georgia’s continued democratic progress. 

There also were some improvements in electoral transparency, such as broadcasting CEC sessions and most interviews for nonpartisan DEC positions online, as well as publishing PEC level data in a more accessible format. However, the process was marred by widespread allegations of misuse of administrative resources, vote-buying, and pressure and intimidation of voters, candidates, and journalists,” said the report. 

NDI says that inclusion of women and minorities, as well as other underrepresented groups, in elections remains a challenge. 

Despite the fact that gender quotas played a significant role in the large increase in women’s representation on proportional lists, very few women ran or were elected to majoritarian seats: the number of women majoritarians elected in 2021 is 0.4 percent (37 women) less than in the 2014 elections,” said the report. 

NDI says that the government ‘bears particular responsibility’ to bring about ‘inclusive, pluralistic exchange, which is essential to responsive governance that improves people’s lives.’ 

NDI has offered the following recommendations to Georgian stakeholders and expressed readiness to assist in their implementation: 

  • Political parties should carry out good faith efforts to work across the political divide and fulfill their responsibility to represent the interest of the voters to ensure public confidence in the democratic political process ahead of the next electoral cycle. 
  •  Accountability measures should be implemented to ensure that authorities act impartially during the election period and prevent the misuse of administrative resources. 
  • Law enforcement agencies should investigate credible cases of voter and candidate intimidation and harassment.
  • To enhance the transparency and oversight of campaign finance, a state entity should be responsible for systematically verifying all possible breaches of the rules of financing political campaigns, including potential illegal incomes, undeclared expenditures, and third-party spending. 
  • Analysis of financial reporting should also be conducted and available to the public in a timely manner.
  • Political parties should more actively engage the public between elections and through inclusive campaign structures to ensure platforms and issues are reflective of citizen concerns. They should develop their political programs and platforms around key public priorities and offer a clear position on how they would work to implement the solutions.