An agreement on key principles between political parties to secure peaceful and fair electoral process ahead of the October parliamentary polls is important, especially in currently existing polarized environment, but four-point declaration, put forth by the ruling party, falls short of required commitments, a group of election observer organizations said.
This Affects You Too, a collation of number of local civil society and media organizations, said in a statement on July 16, that “developments related to electoral environment have taken an alarming turn recently, which endangers carrying out of electoral process in a peaceful and fair environment.”
“Both the political parties and the authorities are responsible for defusing of existing tensions and for building public confidence towards the process,” it said. “We deem it necessary to have an agreement between the political parties in order to carry out fair, competitive and peaceful electoral process. But it is important that principles of an agreement should not be dictated by only a single political force, it should instead represent a genuine accord between the parties.”
The ruling United National Movement party put forth a four-point declaration on July 14 and called on other parties to join it. According to the proposed declaration undersigned parties will commit themselves to reject violence and obstructing campaigning of other parties; to reject vote-buying; to follow recommendations of civil society organizations and Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections at the National Security Council in respect of use of administrative resources; to recognize election results, “summarized by the Central Election Commission and deemed legitimate by observer organizations with credible reputation."
This Affects You Too said that principles outlined in the ruling party-proposed declaration “are not enough” for improving electoral environment.
“It is required for the authorities and the political parties to assume more responsibility and to agree on other election environment-related issues,” the group said.
The group listed nine points on which, it thinks, the political parties should agree on and also additional eight points which the executive authorities should also commit themselves to.
Among these principles are inadmissibility of encouraging activists for “aggressive and distractive actions”; informing relevant state agency in advance about planned campaign events; inadmissibility of attempts to discredit and to meddle in the work of “unbiased observer organizations”; not to engage in vote-buying and to protect related legislative norms; not to misuse administrative resources, as well misuse of budgetary resources including through use of personnel employed in the state agencies; promote political culture, including through encouraging issue-based campaigning; not to encourage violence on the election day, including through mobilization of supporters, which may potentially lead to disorders and destabilization on the voting day; provide equal conditions for the work of journalists during campaign events and not to allow pressure on and hindering work of media representatives; not to misuse media outlets for campaign purposes or for misinforming public; to promote “defusing tensions” between representatives of various media outlets;
In respect of the executive authorities, the group said, declaration should including following principles: a commitment to act solely in line with laws and in full compliance of a principle of political neutrality; equal and fair treatment of all political entities; inadmissibility of selective application of justice and discriminating approach; implementing of duties by the State Audit Service in manner that will not cause arbitrary restriction of political parties’ finances; focusing more on prevention of offenses rather than punishment; facilitation by the State Audit Service observance of law by the political parties including through having consultations in advance, especially in matters related to donations; inadmissibility of attempting to hinder journalistic work and providing equal conditions for the work of all journalists; provide with all the available means public’s access to diverse sources of information, which also involves unrestricted access to various television channels before and after elections.
Some political parties, including Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) and New Rights have said they would join the declaration.
Bidzina Ivanishvili-led Georgian Dream opposition coalition said on July 16, that although an idea itself to have such a declaration was acceptable, the process of elaboration of such a document should be all-inclusive with participation of other political parties and civil society representatives.
A spokesperson for the Georgian Dream coalition, Maia Panjikidze, said on July 16, that a group of civil society representatives had already been working on elaboration of such document and ruling party’s July 14 announcement was an attempt to hijack the process.
“The fact in itself that parties need to agree on certain code of conduct ahead of elections does not speak well about democracy in the country. In normal conditions there should be no need of such [document], but as far as we have such a situation… of course elaboration of such a code of conduct is welcomed,” Panjikidze said.
“But we think that such a document should be developed with active involvement of civil society and international organizations and with participation of the political parties running in the elections,” she added.