Rhetoric from ruling United National Movement (UNM) party and Bidzina Ivanishvili-led opposition Georgian Dream coalition in which the country’s two largest and wealthiest political groups describe each other as a fundamental threat to Georgia, escalates polarization ahead of the October 1 parliamentary elections, National Democratic Institute (NDI) said.
A team of three analysts, which make up a long-term election observation mission from NDI, the U.S.-based group working on political party development and democracy programs in Georgia since 1994, released on Monday its interim report covering a period between August 3 and August 27.
“This rhetoric is compounded by the actions of both groups, creating false perceptions and undermining public confidence in the elections,” NDI’s interim report reads.
It says that while the government has the obligation to enact fair electoral laws and to enforce them impartially and the opposition has the obligation to adhere to the law, “both sides, at times, appear to be avoiding these responsibilities in their respective attempts to gain political advantage.”
According to the report, sporadic cases of violence during campaigning in rural areas serve “to perpetuate the notion that the two largest electoral subjects are acting like enemies, not political adversaries or electoral opponents.”
“Both sides need to contain animosities and prevent violence, while the government has a responsibility to ensure equal protection of the law and prosecution of violators,” NDI’s interim report reads.
It says that “rumors and unfounded allegations appear to be used as campaign tools to undermine candidates, parties and the electoral process.”
The report notes lack of trust among opposition and “many in civil society concerning the government’s ability to play an impartial role.”
The opposition parties regularly voice allegations about citizens losing social benefits or pensions, facing harassment or receiving penalties at their business for openly supporting an opposition party, according to the report.
“As the discussion of government interference often turns into undocumented allegations of widespread abuses, it is difficult to discern whether the examples cited are from the current election cycle or past experience,” the report reads.