ISFED Issued the First Report of the Pre-Election Monitoring
The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) presents its first pre-election monitoring report for the October 27, 2013 presidential elections, covering the period from July 1 through July 19, 2013.
ISFED is carrying out the pre-election monitoring in all election districts of Georgia with 73 long-term observers. In the process of monitoring ISFED is guided by international standards for monitoring organizations, implying comprehensive, objective and transparent monitoring.
Covering the period from the beginning of official pre-election campaign through July 19, the report presents flaws identified in composition of election administration, abuse of administrative resources and vote buying risks, alleged pressure/threats on political grounds, pre-election meetings of political parties/candidates, voter lists.
I. Pre-election activities of candidates/parties
Political parties and presidential candidates are not yet actively engaged in pre-election campaigning. ISFED has found that from July 1 through July 14, 2013, political parties and candidates held total of 24 town hall meetings with voters. If we compare it to the data from 2012 parliamentary elections, we will find that parties were much more active last year. For the parliamentary elections ISFED found that parties held total of 174 meetings in July 2014 in various regions of Georgia, which is much higher than the number of public meetings in July 2013.
ISFED welcomes the fact that Giorgi Margvelashvili, the coalition Georgian Dream’s presidential candidate resigned from his office of the Minister of Education and Science to get involved in pre-election campaigning. We believe that resignation of the presidential candidate is an important step forward towards practicing high standards of political and legal culture in Georgia, ensuring equal playing field for the elections and avoiding abuse of state resources.
II. Alleged Political Pressure
During the reporting period ISFED revealed two cases where citizens have publicly declared about the alleged political pressure. These cases occurred in Gori and Kaspi, Shida Kartli Region. In one case, a political activist became a victim of physical violence, while in the other case - a Member of Sakrebulo was threatened based on political motive.
III. Administrative Resources
During the reporting period ISFED did not find any cases that involved illegal use of state resources. However, official announcement had already been made about increasing state pensions and social welfare, to be realized after July 1 and September 1, 2013, respectively. In the past years we have frequently witnessed cases when launching of social welfare projects coincided to official pre-election period, and therefore, these projects were perceived as part of pre-election campaign. We believe that launching social programs in pre-election period may pose risks of abusing state budget with the purpose of benefitting for political goals.
In order for social welfare projects not to be perceived as part of pre-election campaign, the authorities should wedge a clear line between state objectives and party interests. To this end, state should limit as much as possible involvement of state political officials in advertising and implementing social welfare projects during pre-election period.
IV. Vote Buying
During the reporting period ISFED has not observed any cases of vote buying. However, we would like to highlight one important issue that may suggest vote buying or may prove to be problematic in the future. We are referring to the financial support provided by Cartu Foundation (an organization associated with Bidzina Ivanishvili, a person with declared election goals) to the non-profit non-commercial legal entity Foundation for Rural Development and the Development of Agriculture. Agricultural Credit on Concessionary Terms is one of the projects currently implemented by the Foundation. It aims at provisions of low interest-rate agricultural credits. Activities pursued by a person with declared election goals, aimed at providing material incentive for voters, conflicts with prohibitions envisaged by the organic law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens. Therefore, we believe that in order to ensure abidance to the Law of Georgia on Political Unions of Citizens, during pre-election period the international charity foundation Cartu should terminate financial or any other material/non-material contributions made to the non-profit non-commercial legal entity Foundation for Rural Development and the Development of Agriculture, as well as provision of various material benefits to Georgian citizens through this contribution; as this activity may be qualified as vote buying.
V. Composition of Election Administration
The monitoring has also revealed cases in which temporary members of DECs elected by the CEC or appointed by parties are also employed in other public service. Being a member of DEC while continuing to work in public service violates provisions about work incompatibility of the law on Public Service of Georgia. Therefore, public servants facing the issue of incompatibility should immediately choose between their permanent work and temporary membership of DEC.
ISFED found total of 26 cases that involved incompatibility with public service in various election districts.
VI. Voter Lists
The CEC has reported that total of 3,537,249 voters are registered in the unified list of voters for the upcoming presidential elections. Similar to the 2012 parliamentary elections, voters removed from registration remain a problem. In particular, voters removed from registration but not registered at a new address remain beyond the scope of legal regulation. The CEC has reported number of such voters at 97 000.
ISFED believes that the list of voters removed from registration must be made public immediately. Furthermore, active campaign should be launched to inform citizens about how to verify themselves in the list and what procedures to undergo for re-registration. We welcome the fact that the draft law on amendments to the Election Code of Georgia submitted to the Parliament of Georgia offers right solution for the problem.
ISFED will publish its following report in early August.
Please see the full report HERE.
Publishing this report was made possible with the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The contents of the report solely belong to ISFED and do not necessarily reflect the views of NDI, USAID or the United States Government.