Pre-election environment ahead of “crucial” parliamentary polls on October 1 is “competitive”, giving voters a real choice between “distinct alternatives”, but increasing “polarisation and antagonism” is a source of concern, a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) said on September 12.
A five-member delegation from PACE, led by Christian-Democratic lawmaker from Italy Luca Volontè from the group of European People’s Party (EPP), visited Georgia on September 11-12 to assess pre-election situation in the country and met with range of senior government officials and political parties representatives.
The delegation said in a statement that polarisation was “overshadowing the election campaign.”
“Parties should refrain from such negative campaigning and focus on informing voters about their views and party platforms, according to their proper duties and responsibilities,” it said.
It called on political parties and the authorities to “refrain from any action that could undermine” public trust in election process.
“For the same reason, the delegation urges all election contestants not to question the legitimacy of the election and its outcome before the elections have even taken place,” it said.
The delegation called on the authorities to “to continue to step up their efforts to eradicate the abuse of administrative resources” and reaffirmed a statement made by PACE’s co-rapporteurs for Georgia regarding the fines imposed by the State Audit Office on Bidzina Ivanishvili-led Georgian Dream opposition coalition. After that statement, the Georgian authorities announced about a decision “to postpone” enforcement of those fines. PACE delegation welcomed that decision and also called on contestants “to fully abide by the electoral legislation”.
“Perceived injustices in the law are not, and cannot be, a justification for breaking the law,” the PACE delegation said.
It welcomed “improvement in pluralism of the media environment” as a result of enforcement of ‘must-carry’ rules, obligating cable operators to transmit to their clients TV channels with news programs. The delegation, however, also noted that this legally binding provision did not cover election day and the post-election period and called on the authorities “to consider extending the period in which the ‘must offer, must carry’ provisions are mandatory.”
“At the same time, it notes that cable television is not widely spread in a number of regions in Georgia. The delegation therefore calls upon the authorities to explore all possibilities to improve media access in those regions not covered by cable television,” it said.
The PACE delegation welcomed work of the Voters' List Verification Commission to improve the quality of the voters list, as well as the work of the Inter Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections at the National Security Council of Georgia “to increase public trust in the election process.”