(UPDATE: adds ruling party’s position on the issue in 11th and 12th paragraphs and Georgian Dream’s comment in 13th paragraph)
A group of Tbilisi-based ambassadors has called on the political parties to accept code of conduct tabled by campaign This Affects You Too and also to respect both the election results validated by the Central Election Commission and a process, assessed by OSCE observation mission, as having met international standards.
The Ambassadorial Working Group (AWG), which mainly brings together diplomats from OSCE participating states and usually gathers on election-related issues, said in a statement on August 17, that it “strongly supports Georgia’s democratic development, and in particular the fundamental principles of free and fair elections, a level playing field for all participants, equal access to media, and respect for the rule of law.”
“In this context, the AWG urges all political parties and authorities at all levels to adhere to the 17 point code of conduct proposed by the campaign ‘This Affect You Too’, and to respect both the election results validated by the Central Election Commission, and a process assessed by independent international observer organizations, in the first instance the OSCE/ODIHR, as having met international standards and norms,” the statement reads.
“The AWG also underlines the important role played by civil society organizations (CSOs), and reminds all parties that CSOs and independent observer organizations should be allowed to operate without any undue pressure or interference,” it said. “The AWG urges all political parties to adhere to the abovementioned proposals in the interest of advancing Georgia’s democratic development by ensuring free and fair parliamentary elections.”
In July This Affects You Too, a collation of number of local civil society and media organizations, offered political parties to agree on set of principles to secure peaceful and fair electoral process ahead of the October parliamentary elections and tabled 17-point code of conduct, which also involves provisions addressed to the executive authorities.
The ruling party, United National Movement (UNM), announced on July 19 about readiness to join the 17-point declaration, but in addition it has also offered to combine these principles with four-point declaration offered by UNM on July 14, which contains a provision committing parties to recognizing “election results summarized by the Central Election Commission and deemed legitimate by observer organizations with credible reputation.”
This point about parties’ reaction to election results has turned into a major source of controversy with the ruling party prioritizing this provision, while the Georgian Dream coalition showing reluctance to accept it. Although the Georgian Dream announced about joining the 17-point declaration, it has offered parties to take commitment to resolve “all the disputed issues about election results solely through peaceful and constitutional way.” As a result, although both the Georgian Dream and UNM have agreed to accept 17-point declaration, offered by This Affects You Too, there is not yet a single document undersigned by the two major political forces.
On August 17 This Affects You Too released a modified text of its proposals, called Agreement Between the Political Parties, which tries to accommodate both sides’ interests over the issue which was the major source of controversy – political parties’ response to election results.
The text, which is now made up of 18 points after incorporating proposals from the ruling party-offered declaration, including on non-use of hate speech, also includes in last paragraph following clause: “We declare publicly, that we will recognize results of elections, held under the abovementioned terms, [recognize election results] summarized in line with legal procedures and deemed legitimate by observer organizations with credible reputation.”
This Affects You Too said that the proposed text might be further modified in the process of work with the political parties, “but it is important to immediately launch the process for reaching the final agreement.”
The ruling party says that it fully shares the statement made by the Ambassadorial Working Group, stressing that call for respecting “both the election results validated by the Central Election Commission, and a process assessed by independent international observer organizations, in the first instance the OSCE/ODIHR, as having met international standards and norms” reflects the UNM’s four-point declaration.
“We call on the Georgian Dream to also share this wording [used in the AWG’s statement] unconditionally in any form they wish,” UNM’s spokesperson, MP Chiora Taktakishvili told Civil.ge on Saturday, adding that the modified text offered by This Affects You Too on August 17 was not acceptable for the ruling party.
Georgian Dream’s spokesperson, Maia Panjikidze, told Civil.ge that the coalition would make the statement on the issue later.
In its statement on August 17, the Ambassadorial Working Group welcomed “the improved access to a diversity of media sources” after ‘must carry’ rules went into effect, but it also noted that “given the fact that some areas in Georgia have little access to cable television, the AWG encourages consideration of ways to further support wider access to free media beyond areas covered by cable television, especially in the regions of Georgia.”