EU, US and Georgian officials sound off on the 2018 Georgian elections
The results of the 2018 presidential elections in Georgia were the subject of discussion at a recent conference held in Tbilisi.
Assessments and proposals were submitted by the head of the Council of Europe office, non-governmental organizations, representatives of the authorities and the opposition, as well as the Central Election Commission.
Independent but government-supported candidate Salome Zurabishvili won in the second round of elections, and was elected as president for a term of six years.
The European Union and the Council of Europe
EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell recommended that the Georgian authorities use the time left before the parliamentary elections in 2020 to improve the electoral environment.
The elections should involve as many sectors of society as possible, and it is extremely important that the authorities, the opposition, as well as the media and civil society be involved in solving electoral issues collaboratively, said Hartzell.
“There isn’t much time and the work should start immediately. The solution to this problem must be approached very carefully. These processes are important for relations between the European Union and Georgia,” he said.
The head of the Council of Europe office, Cristian Urse, says there is a serious imbalance in the representation of political parties, the use of negative campaigns and the role of media as a regulator.
Urse urged the opposition and authorities to correct the situation before the 2020 parliamentary elections and to sit down at the negotiating table.
Acting US Ambassador to Georgia Ross Wilson believes that the election campaign revealed several fundamental issues, as well as issues for Georgia.
Wilson says that over the past ten years, Georgia has achieved great success in terms of the development of democracy, but that is necessary to strengthen democratic culture and eradicate the violations that were recorded during the presidential elections.
The current Georgian authorities claim the presidential elections were held in a fair and transparent manner.
Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani says NGOs did not observe neutrality and failed to protect the female presidential candidate Salome Zurabishvili from misogynist attacks.
Tsulukiani stated that many did not like that the government chose to support independent candidate Salome Zurabishvili, and thus waged an aggressive campaign against her.
She added that with the exception of a few minor issues, the vote counting procedure took place in a calm and peaceful atmosphere and gave an objective picture of the outcome.
The opposition said that the presidential elections in 2018 were held with gross violations, and that the candidates were ‘in unequal conditions’.
Leader of the Development Movement David Usupashvili says that, during the 2018 elections, all the negative practices of the 1990s came to light.
One of the leaders of the New Rights party, Mamuka Katsitadze, said that the presidential elections were held in completely unfair conditions – the authorities used huge administrative resources at their disposal to secure their candidate’s win.
The Central Election Commission
The Central Election Commission categorically denied any allegations of election fraud.
The chairwoman of the commission, Tamar Zhvania, reported that a number of defamatory statements were sent to the electoral commission, but in the end all the observation missions confirmed that the presidential election of 2018 was held in a legitimate and professional manner.