May 22 Sakrebulo By-Elections: Evaluation of the Election Day
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) monitored Sakrebulo by-elections on May 22, 2016, by means of 29 short-term observers, 7 district observers and mobile teams.
ISFED did not find any significant violations in the process of voting at polling stations. However, activists and aggressive groups mobilized outside polling stations engaged in acts of physical violence and verbal confrontation.
The Election Day developments suggest that mobilization of their activists by political parties outside polling stations results in physical and verbal clashes, while ineffective response of law enforcement bodies to such incidents may promote violence and threaten stability of election environment.
Additionally, party proxies outside polling stations continue the practice of recording names of voters that arrive for casting their votes. This may have a negative effect on expression of free will of voters.
Acts of Violence
Physical violence between the Georgian Dream activists and the United National Movement members broke out outside the polling station no.53 of electoral district no.67.17 in Zugdidi. The activists were trying to drive Giga Bokeria, Tengiz Gunava, Nika Melia and other UNM leaders out of the area outside the polling station. Verbal confrontation between the Georgian Dream activists and the UNM members escalated into a physical violence. As a result, Giga Bokeria, Nika Melia and other members of the UNM were injured.
Police patrol was present at the scene but it failed to de-escalate the situation and prevent physical violence. Despite their presence, law enforcement officers did not arrest any of the perpetrators of violence. Additional police crews arrived later at the scene of the incident.
Media reported that several athletes were among the Georgian Dream activists engaged in the physical violence.
ISFED observers have reported that after the UNM members left, the Georgian Dream activists began chanting: “there is no place for murderers in school” (the polling station was located inside the school building) "glory to the Georgian Dream".
ISFED observers also reported that the son and a relative of the UNM’s candidate Lashkhia sustained physical injuries during the violent incident outside the polling station no.53 of Kortskheli. They were assaulted separately by a group of people outside the polling station no.53. The victims of violence were checked in Zugdidi Hospital for multiple injuries. One of them needs to undergo a surgical procedure.
Violations observed during opening of polling stations and in the process of polling
At the polling station no.59 of electoral district no.60.05 in Ozurgeti and the polling station no.51 of electoral district no.51 in Tskaltubo, the number of ballots issued to voters exceeded the number of voter signatures by one.
At the polling station no.16 of electoral district no.10.22 in Gldani, a registrar provided a voter with a ballot without having the voter sign along his name on the list.
At the polling station no.37 of electoral district no.30.12 in Kaspi, a ballot was issued to an IDP voter without the IDP card.
At the polling station no.50 of electoral district no.58.17 in Tskaltubo, a registrar provided a voter with a ballot that had its counterfoil still attached, which amounts to violation of the principle of secret ballot.
At the polling station no.50 of electoral district no.58.7 in Tskaltubo, a voter placed his ballot into the ballot box without placing it in the envelope first.
At the polling station no.59 of electoral district no.60.05 in Ozurgeti, Member of Lanchkhuti Sakrebulo Kakhaber Askurava (UNM) was present at the polling station as an observer from the Anti-Corruption Media Center. After the CEC invalidated his observer status, Kakhaber Askurava left the polling station.
At the polling station no.22 of electoral district no. 30.12 in Kaspi, the PEC launched Election Day procedures without opening the logbook first. After ISFED observer pointed out the issue, the PEC Secretary opened the logbook.
At the polling station no.49 of electoral district no.38.17 in Tskaltubo, PEC Secretary failed to include address of the first voter in the control sheet. Additionally, the polling process started 20 minutes late at the station.
At the polling station no.23 of electoral district no.30.12 in Kaspi, information about voters on the list of mobile ballot box was missing from the unified list of voters. After ISFED observer pointed out the problem, the PEC remedied it.
At the polling station no.6 of electoral district no.60.05 in Ozurgeti, one of the candidates attempted to give an interview at the polling station. After ISFED observer pointed out the issue, the PEC Chair forced him to leave the station.
ISFED has already filed 8 complaints with District Electoral Commissions, seeking disciplinary liability for PEC members in connection to violations observed so far.