Polls opened across Georgia on Sunday morning in which voters are electing mayors in 12 cities, heads (gamgebeli) of 59 municipalities and 71 new local councils, Sakrebulos.
Voter turnout was 28.94% as of 3pm local time, five hours before polling stations will be closed.
There are over 3,600 polling stations. The most serious incidents reported as of early afternoon were two cases of disrupting voting process at two provincial polling stations.
In one case ballot papers were snatched by two armed masked men from precinct No.16 in the village of Doshake in Martvili municipality of Samegrelo region. The incident occurred overnight on Sunday hours before the polling station was due to open. Central Election Commission and the Interior Ministry said that ballot papers, undamaged and sealed, were found close to the polling station and although with delay, but it was still possible to launch voting process at the precinct.
Another serious incident occurred in the village of Anaklia of Zugdidi municipality in Samegrelo region, where few local residents destroyed ballot box and some election documents in protest over authorities’ failure to find out whereabouts of their relative, missing since January, 2012. Later on Sunday afternoon, CEC announced that repeat elections would be held in that polling station in Anaklia.
Apart of these cases, election observer organizations have reported as of noon about minor procedural violations at some polling stations.
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, which is the largest Georgian election monitoring group, reported as of 3pm local time four cases of campaigning inside polling stations with chairpersons of those precincts failing to timely react; six cases of casting ballot with improper identification documents; three cases when signatures were put across voters’ names in the lists while they actually had not cast ballot; ten cases of casting ballot without undergoing of through violation of voter marking procedure; eight cases of presence of unauthorized persons inside polling stations; five cases when election observers were prevented from filing a complaint with precinct election commissions.
ISFED, which has up to 1.300 observers across the country, said that it has so far filed total of 31 complaints with the election administration.
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), which has up to 500 observers, also reported about similar violations; but it also said that there was a “significant violation” at a polling station No.25 in Kaspi municipality, where voters were not given ballot papers for gamgebeli (head of municipality) contest; it led to annulment of 27 ballots, which were cast before the violation had been eradicated.
U.S. ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, who is visiting polling stations together with his Dutch and British counterparts, said earlier on Sunday that “election process has got off to a very good start.”
“We are concerned about some reports we have heard from Martvili where ballots were apparently taken overnight, although they may have already now been located. And we understand the central election commission is checking in that situation. We know in Western Georgia sometimes the passions get extremely high and thee maybe good reasons for that we don't know, but the important thing is for people to remember that it's one thing to be passionate about something, but it should not spill over into violence, or intimidation during the election process. So far what we are seeing is generally encouraging and we wish Georgia a successful election day,” the U.S. ambassador said.
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