Summary of Monitoring of 2 October 2021 Local Self-Government Elections
Transparency International Georgia monitored the 2 October local self-government elections with over 300 observers. The analysis of the pre-electoral environment and election day has demonstrated that the government still lacks the political will to hold elections in line with high-level democratic standards and that the country is still far away from the goals set by the ambitious electoral reform.
Our observers have reported up to 160 insignificant and relatively serious violations during the day. We have filed 30 complaints and requested annulment of results of two precincts in Marneuli.
We still observed the gathering of party coordinators outside many precincts, including within a 100-meter radius inside the polling stations, which is a violation of new amendments of the Electoral Code. Furthermore, there were instances of voters casting ballots multiple times, interference in the work of observers, violation of secrecy of vote in the precincts, verbal assaults towards journalists, presence of unauthorized persons on the precincts, etc.
The Central Election Commission presented preliminary results after over 11 hours following the closure of electoral precincts, which is a deterioration of its practice.
Casting ballot multiple times
Our observers noted several instances of individuals casting ballots multiple times in two precincts of Marneuli District and one precinct of Ninotsminda District. These violations are documented by photos/videos.
According to Ali Badirov, a member of the Labour Party, their party canvasser, Eizav Mamedov, was wounded in the stomach by Georgian Dream’s canvasser who later fled the scene.
Verbal abuse towards journalists
Throughout the day, several journalists became the target of verbal and physical insults outside of precincts. This has become a problematic trend with the two prior elections.
The tallying of summary protocols in electoral precincts of Zugdidi, Saburtalo, Nadzaladevi and Poti took a long time. The Commission filled in only the copy of the protocol, sent it to the District Commission and held back in filling in the original copy. Representatives of the United National Movement also reported on such instances. There is a suspicion that the precinct electoral commissions were warned to run the summary protocols through to the district commissions prior to filling them in. The Electoral Code does not recognize such a practice and it could be considered as undue interference in the work of the precinct commissions.
Interference in the work of observers
There were up to 10 instances of interference, verbal assaults and intimidation of our observers during the elections as well as during the tallying of final results.
Violations by observing organizations
Several observers from “For Green Earth” organization were violating the secrecy of vote and interfering in the work of our observers. According to information on the Central Election Commission website, this organization had a total of 3,213 registered observers. An observer from the “Professional Union of Students and Professional Education and Qualified Workers”, Tofig Akberov, casted his ballots several times in Marneuli’s 13th precinct. The organization has 894 observers. A representative of the “Research Centre for Public Opinion” was violating the secrecy of vote and allegedly interfering in the expression of the voter’s will. This organization has 483 observers. Organization “Public Union - Georgia First” registered the Chairperson of the Sakrebulo Faction Georgian Dream - Industrialist in Akhaltsikhe as an observer, which is a violation as a member of the Sakrebulo is not allowed to be an observer. This organization has a total of 2338 registered observers.
Violation of secrecy of vote
There were instances of violation of secrecy of vote in five precincts, when certain persons followed or had an attempt to follow voters into the voting booth.
Alleged voter bribery
Our observer noted alleged voter bribery in one precinct in Dusheti. Furthermore, the media reported on several occasions of alleged voter bribery.
Issues with the new voting booths
The new design of voting booths were implemented in Tbilisi precincts. The new remodelled booths have their front cut out. The purpose of these new booths is to prevent voters from photographing their ballots or taking the ballots out of the precinct. While the purpose of these new booths was legitimate, it was a source of discomfort for voters in smaller polling stations due to concerns over secrecy of vote. The use of such booths can become problematic in the regions, where the voters are less protected from intimidation.
- Law enforcement agencies should swiftly and effectively investigate all alleged instances of criminal violations;
- The precinct commissions should timely fill in the summary protocols in order to dispel any concerns of undue interference;
- The use of remodelled voting booths should be reconsidered due to a high risk of violation of secrecy of vote. However, it is important for discussions to continue about the reduction of risks of interfering in the expression of voter will;
- It is necessary to raise the professional qualifications and work ethics of electoral administrative staff, especially on the level of precinct electoral commissions.