“Fundamental freedoms were generally respected and candidates were able to campaign freely in the 21 October local elections,” with the Election Day proceeding “in an orderly manner,” the international observers concluded in a preliminary statement released yesterday.
The joint statement is the result of a common endeavor of the observation missions of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (Congress).
The organizations noted in their statement that “the efficient administration of the elections and accurate voter registration contributed to the quality of the process,” but added that “the entire context of the elections was shaped by the dominance of the ruling party.”
“We have observed an election process where contestants had the opportunity to campaign freely, and in which fundamental freedoms of assembly and expression were generally respected,” said Corien Jonker, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR long-term election observation mission. “The predominant position of the ruling party is clear, and this affected different aspects of the elections. This predominance, however, comes with a responsibility to ensure that the opportunities of other contestants are not limited.”
“There were cases of pressure on voters and candidates, as well as a few violent incidents,” the organizations also said, adding that “cases of the misuse of state resources were also reported.”
“From the Congress perspective, misuse of public resources at the local level and the further consolidation of local self-government in Georgia need to be addressed after these elections. We remain willing to assist the authorities in their endeavors,” Stewart Dickson, Spokesperson on Observation of Local and Regional Elections, said on behalf of the Congress electoral assessment team.
OSCE/ODIHR and the Congress highlighted “notable improvements in the freedom of media,” but said that the broadcast media remains “polarized” and “perceived as politically affiliated.”
The organizations touched upon the donations as well, noting that “there were significant differences in the level of donations to campaigns, with the ruling party receiving 91 per cent of private contributions.”
The OSCE/ODIHR plans to issue a comprehensive final report of the municipal elections, including recommendations for potential improvements, eight weeks after the completion of the electoral process.