In a statement on Sunday the U.S. embassy in Tbilisi expressed concern over campaign incidents ahead of the June 15 local elections in Georgia.
“We are increasingly concerned about reports of campaign incidents and allegations of government pressure on candidates to withdraw and of opposition aggression toward election officials in certain specific locations,” reads the statement.
“We call on the authorities to objectively investigate these allegations and take steps, both technically and politically, to ensure that the high standards recognized by the international community in the last two elections [2012 parliamentary and 2013 presidential] are met in these upcoming elections.”
“It is important for the government, each and every party, and every electoral district to play their part in consolidating the highest standards of democracy in this region,” the U.S. embassy said.
The most recent case of violence took place in the center of Batumi on June 7, when several opposition UNM party leaders, among them Giga Bokeria, Gigi Ugulava and MP Giorgi Baramidze, were meeting a small group of voters as part of a campaign ahead of the June 15 local elections; incident erupted after several men, supporters of GD ruling coalition, arrived at the meeting, which then grew into scuffles. A violent incident against UNM members and candidates also took place in Zugdidi on June 6.
EU’s special adviser for legal reforms and human rights in Georgia, Thomas Hammarberg, has called on the authorities to launch a national campaign against violence and warned officials against trivializing cases of “hate crime”, including against politicians.
“There have been some hate crimes committed against people, including [against] some of the people connected to politics, and also in connection to elections,” Hammarberg said.
“I think it is very, very important that all those reports about attacks on individuals… every such case to be thoroughly investigated quickly and a report be made public to stop a tendency that may spread,” he said.
“It’s important that the leaders of the country take a very clear anti-violence position,” Hammarberg said. “Frankly, when I talk with some of the leading politicians about this problem, I have not had a feeling that they have taken it sufficiently seriously.”