POLITICS
Foreign Observers of NDI and IRI Assess Georgia’s 2016 Elections
11 October, 2016
Two foreign observers’ delegations of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI) actively observed Georgia’s October 8 parliamentary elections throughout the country and made assessments. They said the whole process was mainly calm, but also highlighted some major and minor violations.

NDI stated that, following a vibrant and competitive campaign, citizens were able to cast their votes freely and, in most places, counting proceeded in a calm and orderly manner. In some electoral precincts, however, counting was
disrupted or terminated by unruly and, in some cases, violent crowds.

Members of the NDI delegation, which included former ambassadors and parliamentarians, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, and regional specialists from eleven countries, visited more than 80 polling stations in ten regions across the country, appearing at the opening, voting, closing, and counting processes in their assigned regions.

The NDI observers said that the elections day started smoothly, and the vast majority of Georgian voters, poll workers, party activists, and candidates demonstrated their commitment to democracy by participating peacefully in the election process. However, they also said in the evening the situation deteriorated in some areas.

“Violence has no place in any election. Although this detracted from the democratic contributions of the many Georgians who had voted and administered polling stations in good faith earlier in the day, it did not appear to substantially interfere with the ability of most Georgians to express their will through the elections,” the NDI statement reads.

The NDI also gave certain recommendations to the Central Election Commission to immediately address the irregularities in and disruption of the counting process to determine the necessity of recounts or reruns, particularly in those majoritarian races where the outcome could be affected.

“Georgia has run-off elections later this month, followed by local and presidential elections over the coming two years. The conduct of those processes will depend on accepting valid results and resolving disputes from this October 8 peacefully,” the organization stated.

IRI also noted that, in general, the elections were carried out in a peaceful environment and reflected the will of the Georgian voters.

However, the organization underlined that the October 8 vote was one step in a process that would include a number of run-off contests and urged Georgians to take an orderly, deliberate approach to political competition in the days following the first round.

"In the face of political tensions at home and ever-present pressure from outside its borders, it was encouraging to see Georgians participate in these elections, whether as voters, candidates, party agents or election officials," said Ambassador Mark Green, president of IRI and chairman of the Institute's international observation team. "We hope that same approach and level of engagement will take place in the coming weeks."

IRI's report is based on the observations of 20 teams of short and long-term observers from 14 different countries. The Election Day observers visited more than 200 polling stations across Georgia, in both rural and urban areas. IRI’s observers also included two teams of observers in Ukraine observing polling at the Georgian Embassy in Kyiv. Those observers reported a calm and orderly environment.

The organization gave several recommendations:

• The CEC must take steps to provide better accommodation for the needs of disabled and aged voters.
• The CEC needs to enhance procedures for the tabulation of ballots in polling stations in order to improve efficiency, transparency and to shorten the time involved in the counting of votes.
• The Georgian parliament needs to thoroughly investigate and take appropriate actions to strengthen laws prohibiting the abuse of administrative resources during the pre-election period.
• The CEC should create expanded enforceable boundaries around polling places to prevent voter intimidation and congestion in voting areas.

On the whole, IRI assessed the October 8 elections as “imperfect, but improved election procedures and administration.”

By Thea Morrison
Source: Georgia Today

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