National democratic institute publishes their findings about the presidential elections in Georgia
29 November, 2018
National democratic institute publishes their findings about the presidential elections in Georgia
A delegation of the National Democratic Institute, which included observers from five countries, analyzed the election process. The delegation found that the election day proceeded in a largely orderly and calm manner. However, there were sporadic, but serious, incidents of multiple voting and manipulation of the count, both directly observed by NDI monitors.

The period ahead of the runoff was divisive and marked by violence and intimidation, reads the statement of the delegation. The campaign rhetoric grew more aggressive and hostile
between the two rounds, with messages of fear and threats of instability. The election lacked constructive debate on ideas, values, or visions for the presidency.


A constructive debate was lacking during the whole election process


Instead, election discourse, fueled by the main media broadcasters, intended to divide voters to extremes, depicting a decision between “nine bloody years of Saakashvili,” a reference to the former Georgian president, or “corrupt, inept rule of a billionaire oligarch,” referring to former prime minister and party chair Bidzina Ivanishvili. This left many Georgians, who dislike either extreme image, feeling politically dispossessed.

geotv.ge
Banners defaming the opponent were daily fare during the presidential elections

Read more: Welcome to the presidential election circus in Georgia

While Georgian Dream leaders became the literal face of the Zourabichvili campaign, many billboards featuring photos of Ivanishvili and other party leaders, Zourabichvili became less visible. At the same time, Saakashvili loomed large over the campaign, making daily media appearances and statements. It should be noted that Saakashvili, who is not a citizen of Georgia, is prohibited from campaigning.


Unprecedented case of vote buying


The report of the delegation stresses one event that took place only days ahead of the Election Day, the prime minister announced that approximately 600,000 people would have their loans forgiven, with the costs reportedly covered by the Cartu Foundation, established by Ivanishvili. There is a lack of clarity or transparency about aspects of the arrangement, and little is known about the decision process or finances of the foundation.

Read more: Unprecedented move by Cartu Group to nullify debts for 600 000 Georgian citizens

Several NGOs and other observers to state that the electoral purposes of the announcement were clear and thus represented an unprecedented case of vote buying. But this was no isolated case. Immediately following the first round of the election, government officials and GD leaders made almost daily announcements of state projects and promises of social spending.

geotv.ge
Prime Minister Bakhtadze announcing the debt cancellation for 600 000 citizens

According to the election code, the implementation of public projects or programs, or increases in welfare benefits, within 60 days of an election is prohibited unless allocated within the state budget prior to the 60-day period.


Several violent disorders were reported


The most serious incident in respect of used violence was the October 30 beating in Akhalkalaki of four UNM activists, who were hospitalized with serious injuries for several days. On the other side, Zourabichvili publicly reported that she and her family had received threats of violence against them via voice and text messages.

Furthermore, the delegation criticizes that the second runoff was held on a Wednesday. Several NGOs as well as opposition parties raised concerns that it would be difficult for Georgians living abroad to participate on a weekday. Also, a day might not be sufficient for some voters in Georgia to travel to their place of registration.

In its report the delegation offered a number of recommendations ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections,

Related stories:

Welcome to the presidential election circus in Georgia

Unprecedented move by Cartu Group to nullify debts for 600 000 Georgian citizens

International media about the runoff presidential elections in Georgia

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