International Observers Evaluate Parliamentary Elections
11 October, 2012
International Observers  Evaluate Parliamentary Elections

 

According to the Centers for Pluralism Network and the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, eighty experienced international observers from 40 different human rights and civic organizations, representing 8 Eastern European countries - Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Serbia - as well as Sweden and the USA monitored the parliamentary elections in Georgia on October 1 in eight districts.

Some observers reported few or no problems in their districts, but very large majority of 80 observers in 8 regional areas (Gori, Kareli, Sagarejo, Samtredia, Tbilisi, Tskhaltubo, Tsalka, Zugdidi) reported numerous problems, electoral law violations, and abuses that clearly could lead to fraud.

 

As observers note, in numerous cases, mysterious camera crews (not from the media) were filming the voting process, following the voters to the booths. When asked who they were, they would either leave or simply be non-responsive. One crew claimed to be from a former political prisoners NGO, which was highly unlikely. On the other hand some accredited journalists were prevented from video-taping by precinct commission officials.

Several commission members tried to intimidate international observers by warning of potentially violent incidents that would definitely occur at a specific time aimed at stealing ballot boxes. This did not occur, but it is clear - commission members did not want international observers in their precincts.

As observer from Azerbaijan, Arif Hajili, stated at the press conference, the observers of the mentioned team came in Georgia to support Georgian society in building democratic country not for backing this or that political party.

“Being experienced in the field, we chose difficult region to observe. We selected villages in Sagarejo region, where most of the residents are Azeri-speaking Georgians. This was the place where mass falsifications were reported in previous elections. In total we observed 14 districts in Sagarejo region. Although the final results were overwhelmingly in favor of the National Movement, our success was that we made sure that only people allowed to vote – voted. And thus instead of the usual 90-97%  reported voters participation, only about 20-30%  registered voters came to the booths. We managed to prevent ballot stuffing and the famous “carousel”.

Local society expressed gratitude to us helping them to express their will without force,” – Hajili said.

The observer also noted in his speech, that any fact happening in Georgia affects Azerbaijan as well. He addressed the future government to ask themselves what are the reasons that only such a small

percentage of Azeri-speaking Georgians participate in the elections. He also highlighted, that comparing with Armenia and Azerbaijan, democratic processes are better in Georgia, though still there are many problems.

“The votes weren’t completely counted, when some of TV stations reported that UNM had won most of the regions. The final results haven’t been reported yet by the Central Election Commission and the process is prolonged. International organizations must go on helping Georgia,” Hajili concluded.

Vincuk Viacorka, one of the most famous opponent of the Lukashenka regime and of Russia’s influence in Belarus, evaluated Georgian parliamentary vote 2012 saying, that in general, elections reflected the will of Georgian people.

“We sincerely wish all the countries not to repeat Rose Revolution, or any kind of revolution. Our key recommendation connected with the electoral process is the following: it’s necessary that observers sit in the polling places from the opening till the signing of the protocols and that additional mobile groups of observers are around to move from one hot spot to another. Our duty to assist Georgian people – done!” said Viacorka adding that democratic institutions should be strengthened in Georgia.

“These elections were one more example how significant using of other countries’ experience is. Everything begins from the elections. New values must be established,” - Pawel Zyzak, observer from Poland, said.

As the president of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, Irena Lasota told the Georgian Journal, the election results were rather unexpected. She regrets, however, that there were not enough experienced international observers and even more – in many places there wasn’t any international observer on the elections day. Lasota stated that her team representing  over 40 respected East European human rights observers had many difficulties obtaining registration. For example “Global Solidarity” from Lublin, Poland – first Polish organization to bring humanitarian aid to Georgia in 2008 was not registered, while  the Polish Ambassador, infamous for her open support for President Saakashvili, had facilitated the registration of inexperienced, uninformed Polish observers who ran around town saying “they came to Georgia to save it from Russia”. She also believes that in places as difficult as Georgia, hundreds of international observers should not have just travelled around, but should have gone to some randomly chosen places and some chosen for their history of falsifications  and observe voting places for the whole day. “Electoral tourism” is a developed business, but as it becomes more and more expensive it also becomes less effective. She also noted that in many places where IDEE observers sat all the time counting votes, voter attendance was completely different from that in previous years.  She even laughed when she spoke of Bestasheni  in the Tsalka region, a village whose 80% or more of the inhabitants emigrated to Greece over 20 years ago, but still remain as registered voters. The two international observers were enough to make sure, that the “dead souls” did not cast their votes. Lasota stressed  also the importance of pre-electoral period when the government was using illegal and un-democratic methods to win the elections. She says the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe sent a few groups here in June, July and August to check the political situation and especially the media.

The report says, that the media were very biased towards Saakashvili  government. What would have happened with those elections if there was no administrative pressure, and people were not afraid to vote freely? It’s quite possible that the results would be even different and more going into the direction of the opposition, but we’ll never know it,”- she said.

As Lasota puts it, the team discovered that there is a very large distance between the government elite and the very poor people. She remembers kilometers of unpaved roads in Sagarejo region, the villages without toilets, schools in which nobody was studying because the school-buildings hadn’t even windows.

“I would say that the most important thing would be to find out why people vote for the Georgian Dream and not for the government. It’s very good to be happy on the day after the vote and be sure, that people have chosen you, because you are better, but the question is what happened in last eight years, what made people so angry at the government - was it because they institutionalized corruption? Was it the result that agriculture instead of getting better, got worse after all of the credits which were given? What was done and not done by the government? But I think if the present government doesn’t analyse the victory, they will never know why they won elections and what is needed to be done,” Lasota says.

In her opinion, in different places there are different reasons to vote for opposition, to support changes and one of them is definitely the fact that Georgia in spite of everything is a very poor country which doesn’t have its own industry. She considers also that agriculture was condemned by the previous government.

“I mean people can’t have a government, which only supports wine production and those very poor villages, that can’t produce wine, can’t survived”, she said.

Lasota promises, that a final report will be released after a full review and tabulation of observer reports.

“We have some work to do for analyzing the overall results and do a long-term report. We hope it will be done not later than November 15, because we aim to do it very thoroughly,” she said.

 

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