Observation of the Parliamentary Elections in the Republic of Georgia
The final report of the limited election observation mission to the Republic of Georgia is ready.The mission was organised
jointly with the European Platform of Democratic Elections (EPDE), the International Partnership of Human Rights (IPHR), the
International Elections Study Center (IESC) and
the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC).
Summary and Recommendations
The parliamentary elections held in Georgia on 8 October 2016, with repeat voting in a few precincts on 22 October and a second round of voting in a number of single-candidate constituencies on 30 October, were generally in line with international standards. However, the authorities need to investigate and address the serious shortcomings described in this report and by other observer missions.
Overall, our observers assessed the elections, the campaign environment and the electoral framework favourably. A statistical analysis of the bulk of the results of the first round of the elections also suggests that there were no serious irregularities that may have significantly influenced the outcome of the elections.
There were important improvements in the electoral framework prior to the elections. Amendments to the election law addressed the problem of wide discrepancies in size between electoral districts and ensured that the vote was more equal this time than previously. However, the parliament did not adopt a proposal for securing gender balance nor forcefully address the issue of minority representation.
24 of the 150 members of the new parliament are women, while 11 are from ethnic minorities. There are 16 per cent of women in Parliament, which is significantly lower than the UN representation target of 30 per cent. While ethnic minorities constitute around 16 per cent of the population, 7 per cent of MPs come from ethnic minorities.
During the campaign, a number of statements and initiatives in support of “traditional values”, including a proposal to introduce a gender-specific definition of marriage in the Constitution, contributed to a climate of hostility toward the LGBTI community. There was a spike in the number of hate crimes following the elections. The Georgian authorities need to confront this issue buy investigating crimes and refraining form rhetoric and acts that contribute to a climate of hostility and discrimination.
According to the election law, repeat voting is only held with respect to candidates elected by majority vote in single-member constituencies. However, the annulment of results in some polling stations may also have had consequences for the election of candidates by proportional representation through nationwide party lists, as several parties were close to the election threshold of five percent. A few votes more or less may have had significant consequences.
The current electoral system enables groups and individuals to influence the outcome of elections by intrusive acts, such as attacking polling stations to disrupt the vote. Moreover, our statistical analysis shows that the ruling party received a suspiciously high number of votes in approximately 185 polling stations: Too few to influence the general outcome of the elections, but enough to possibly have prevented smaller parties from reaching the election threshold.
Incidents of violence and intimidation of voters in some electoral districts marred the overall impression of the elections. The presence of unauthorized individuals out- and sometimes inside polling stations contributed to a climate of surveillance and pressure in certain electoral districts (according to our observers this was in particular the case in Western Georgia). There were also instances where a disproportionately high number of ballots were declared invalid during the vote count in polling stations where votes for opposition candidates and parties were voided because they were not properly stamped and signed by the Precinct Election Commission.
The attack on our observers in Jikhashkari village (at polling station No. 79 in Zugdidi electoral district No. 76) during the first round of the elections is of particular concern. This attack was linked to an attack on the polling station, which appeared to be a professionally executed attempt at disrupting the vote in a contested district (former first lady Sandra Roelofs was running for the main opposition party). Our observers were attacked because they filmed this incident; the perpetrators seized the mobile phones of our observers and destroyed video recordings of their own actions.
What was most worrying about the attack, however, was that police officials who were present in- and outside the polling station did not intervene to safeguard the voting process or protect our observers. This created the impression that the attack took place with the tacit approval of law enforcement authorities. The incident is reminiscent of similar, incidents that have taken place during previous elections, although those often have been more violent in nature.
The overall assessment of the parliamentary elections will also depend on how the relevant electoral bodies deal with the numerous complaints filed during the elections.