(Civil.Ge) — Georgia’s October 30 runoff elections were “competitive and administered in a manner that respected the rights of candidates and voters”, OSCE/ODIHR-led international election observation mission said in its preliminary conclusions on Monday.
Along with long-term and short-term observers from OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the mission also included short-term observers from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA); the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the European Parliament.
“Election day procedures were conducted in a smooth and professional manner,” the mission said.
“The overall assessment of the process by IEOM observers was positive, as Precinct Election Commission (PEC) members were better prepared and adherence to procedures improved, particularly during the counting. However, overcrowding inside polling stations, the presence of unauthorized persons and them interfering in the work of PECs again had a negative effect. Large crowds were gathered outside many polling stations, with observers noting possible intimidation in a few cases,” the mission said in its preliminary conclusions.
It also said that opening was assessed “positively” in all but two out of 63 polling stations observed. The mission evaluated voting as good or very good in 97 per cent of the observed polling stations; it noted that “overall, the counting has improved as compared to the first round.”
The preliminary report lists some procedural errors observed in the recording of the number of voters, invalidation of unused ballots before counting and packing of unused and spoiled ballots.
“Electoral contestants were able to campaign freely and without restrictions or incidents. A few reported physical altercations are being investigated by law enforcement,” the mission said.
“The campaign was more subdued with candidates putting a focus on direct contact with voters,” according to the preliminary conclusions.
The international observation mission also noted that “news coverage of the main political parties by monitored broadcasters was more balanced than during the first round.”
“While the Georgian Public Broadcaster did not conduct election debates for the second rounds, several other broadcasters tried to organize debates but found candidates were not interested in participating,” the mission noted. “Candidates and party representatives rarely presented their electoral programmes, instead discussions continued to be dominated by the topic of one party possibly having a constitutional majority.”
The mission notes that “the principle of transparency and the right to effective redress were often not respected in the investigation and adjudication of election disputes by election commissions and courts.
“All this weakened confidence in the election administration,” it said.
International observers also noted about the lack of regulations for the second round that “gave room for subjective interpretations and inconsistencies in the application of the law.”
The OSCE/ODIHR will issue a comprehensive final report, including recommendations for potential improvements, some eight weeks after the completion of the electoral process.