Campaign ahead of the October 27 presidential election is seen through the prism of the last year’s parliamentary election and “is notably calmer”, a long-term election observation mission from OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in its interim report citing its interlocutors.
“However, from the beginning, the campaign atmosphere has been marked by a tense cohabitation between the governing coalition, the Georgian Dream (GD), and the parliamentary opposition party, the UNM, and their respective leaders. This was compounded by arrests and pre-trial detention of several UNM officials, including its Secretary General [former PM and interior minister Vano Merabishvili],” according to the report, covering a period between September 19-October 11.
Noting “major political changes” that have taken place at the local level since the 2012 elections, the report says that the campaign environment “has been negatively impacted by allegations of political pressure on UNM representatives at local self-governmental institutions.”
According to the report the campaigning is so far “low key” and the majority of the candidates were slower to begin campaigning, but the number of rallies has increased since the end of September with Giorgi Margvelashvili of GD; Davit Bakradze of the UNM and Nino Burjanadze, the leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, among the most visible candidates
“Electoral programmes detail economic and social measures, including increasing salaries, decreasing unemployment, and improving health care services. The announcement by the prime minister of a one billion USD private donation to a Georgian co-investment fund has also been highlighted at GD rallies. Most candidates also call for a ‘restoration of justice’ after nine years under the previous government. Future relations with Russian Federation and territorial integrity are also issues in the campaign,” the report says.
On election administration, the report says that the Central Election Commission (CEC) “operates in a transparent and efficient manner.”
According to the report, some interlocutors of OSCE observers expressed concern over “low level of oversight” by the State Audit Office, the state agency in charge of monitoring political parties’ finances and donations. The State Audit Office was previously criticized by international observers for applying its “discretionary” powers “disproportionately” against opposition and its donors in the lead up to the October 2012 parliamentary elections. The legal framework regulating party and campaign finance was amended in August, 2013 to address major issues raised following the last year’s parliamentary elections.
On the media environment, the report says it is “considered less polarized” than during the 2012 parliamentary elections and “journalists are noted as covering major political events in a more inclusive fashion.” The report, however, says that “critical analysis and analytical reporting is still lacking.”