Bribery, intimidation, voter pressure - October 2 municipal elections in Georgia
Municipal elections violations in Georgia
Local self-government elections in Georgia which were unprecedented in their importance ended on October 2,
According to observer organizations, alleged bribery of voters, intimidation, “coordinators” and criminals mobilized at the polling stations, and many minor procedural violations were noted.
According to the Central Election Commission of Georgia, the voter turnout in these elections was 51.92% (1,815,776 voters). In the previous elections to local self-government in 2017, this figure was 45.65%. In the last parliamentary elections in 2020 – 56.11%.
The local government elections on October 2 in Georgia were very different from other elections held in Georgia so far, especially from the other local self-government elections.
In these elections, to some extent, the fate of Georgia’s foreign policy should be decided. In addition, the October 2 elections would determine whether early elections would be called.
In fact, this is the first time that local government elections are the shortest route to a change of central government.
The preliminary results of the elections are still unknown. The precinct commissions are calculating the results. The Central Election Commission (CEC) announced that it would take 7-8 hours to download polling station data.
Before the first election results, traditionally all parties, both the ruling party and opposition parties, announced that they had won the election. The ruling Georgian Dream party has already begun to celebrate on a large stage, which was set up in the center of Tbilisi before the elections.
The opposition is also celebrating a victory.
According to the results of exit polls conducted by three TV channels “Mtavari”, “Imedi” and “Formula”, the second round of elections for the mayor of Tbilisi will take place.
Unprecedented number of observers
Unlike all other elections to self-government bodies, these elections were under the special scrutiny of observers.
More than 1,000 representatives from 52 international observation organizations were registered in Georgia to observe the October 2 elections, which is twice as many as in the previous elections to self-government bodies in 2017.
In addition, 2,338 observers from 88 local observation organizations observed the elections.
Representatives of international observing organizations and missions have only made general statements so far. Their detailed reports and assessments will be published later.
However, local monitoring organizations actively published short reports throughout the day.
According to these reports, numerous violations occurred at polling stations throughout the day.
What violations have been identified by the observers
Transparency International Georgia monitors recorded 140 minor and relatively serious violations during the day (from 07:00 to 19:30) and reported 25 complaints.
As of 19:00, 137 complaints had been filed by observers from another organization, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), and 40 comments had been logged.
The Georgian Young Lawyers Association has written over 80 comments and complaints in a day.
Organizations’ recorded violations include: alleged “carousel” (voting of the same persons at different polling stations), bribery of voters, the illegal registration of voters at a polling station, voting without an identity card, violation of marking rules; and gaps related to the use of portable ballot boxes and electoral documentation;
In addition, their reports indicate that during the day there were cases of obstruction and pressure on observers, violation of the secrecy of voting, the presence of unauthorized persons at polling stations, and violations of the radius of 100 meters from the polling station.
Such a case was recorded by the observers of the organization in Marneuli. According to Transparency International, at polling station # 22 in Marneuli # 13 constituency, a person voted twice and made a third attempt. Several more people voted at the same polling station more than once.
The Association of Young Lawyers of Georgia also speaks about the alleged “carousel” voting case in Marneuli.
The organization claims that at polling station # 7, their observer discovered a case of stuffing envelopes into the main ballot box, to which the organization also filed a complaint and demanded a recount.
Alleged bribery of voters
An observer from Transparency International noticed a man near the first precinct no. 28 of Dusheti who was handing money and voter cards to three people.
Various reports of alleged voter bribery were disseminated throughout the day by various media outlets.
Obstruction of the work of observers
Transparency International Georgia recorded numerous cases of obstruction of the work of observers during the day. Among them in Akhalkalaki – polling station # 50, Zugdidi – polling station # 15, Tbilisi – polling station # 10 in Gldani, Marneuli – polling station # 13, Telavi – polling station # 17. At these polling stations, observers were most often interfered with by members of the commission, verbally insulted, were not allowed to register complaints, and did not allow video filming. In Akhalkalaki, for example, an observer was kicked out of the yard.
“Members of precinct commission # 50 of Akhalkalaki constituency # 40 drank alcohol in a room next to the polling station and were drunk, to which our observer made a remark to the members of the commission. Because of this, he was kicked out of the yard, he was verbally abused, after which he called a patrol police”, the organization said in a statement.
ISFED observers were subjected to unethical treatment by commission members at polling station # 15 in Kvareli in Kakheti.
“They insulted us and did not allow the observer to properly exercise their duties”, the organization said.
An observer of the Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) was expelled from polling station No. 65 in Marneuli by the chairman of the precinct commission after the observer recorded the facts of voting without marking and identification and demanded that the violation be eliminated.
Voting without identification or labeling
Representatives of observation organizations identified cases of voting without identity cards at polling stations No. 65, 48, and 14 of Marneuli.
Voting without marking was revealed at polling stations in Vake, #49 and #74, as well as in Marneuli, at polling station # 48.
Violation of the secrecy of voting
According to the reports of observer organizations, the secrecy of voting was most often violated at polling stations. At some polling stations, voters were escorted into the booth by a member of the precinct commission, sometimes by a representative of the observation organization (polling stations Poti #33 and Telavi #6).
There were cases when the voter marked the candidate outside the booth on the registrar’s desk (for example, in Dmanisi, polling station #43);
In Abash, at polling station #19, according to ISFED, about 15 voters were brought to representatives of the Georgian Dream and other members of the commission whom they voted for.
GYLA reports that voting booths that were installed at polling station #70 in Gori, violated the secrecy of the vote.
Site bystanders and site coordinators
As in previous years, observers noted that the presence of unauthorized persons at or near a polling station remains a harmful tradition.
Although an amendment to the Electoral Code this year prohibits party coordinators from gathering within 100 meters of a polling station, their presence was typical for October 2 elections.
Coordinators with photographs and voter lists near polling stations are the main flaw of the elections in Georgia.
In previous years, when journalists came to such coordinators, they hid the lists and explained their presence for various absurd reasons – a meeting of relatives, a wedding, a party, debt collection, etc.
This year, some of the coordinators did not hide the real reasons for their presence there. However, they hid the lists because it is a crime to hand over the commission’s table lists (lists with photographs of voters) to anyone.
Attacks on journalists
Like last year, this year’s elections did not go without the verbal and physical abuse of journalists. This is also a vicious tradition in recent years.
In Batumi, a journalist was threatened by coordinators at polling station #95 in Batumi. The incident happened when a journalist was trying to find out their identities.
According to the journalist, they told him that it would be “remembered” and later “dealt with”.
The Georgian Dream activist insulted and threatened the journalist and cameraman of the Mtavari TV channel and broke his camera.
The journalist of Radio Marneuli was banned from filming in Marneuli.
The TV25 journalist was physically assaulted at a polling station in Batumi.
In Zugdidi, at one of the polling stations, a stranger threatened a Formula TV journalist with an electric shock.
On October 2, 2021, elections to local self-government bodies were held in Georgia. 64 mayors and 2044 deputies of local councils – Sakrebulo were elected in the elections.
43 electoral subjects were registered to participate in the October 2 elections.
This is the eighth self-government elections in independent Georgia.
The Georgian opposition announced these elections as a referendum on the issue of trust in the authorities, counting on its results to call early parliamentary elections.