Results of consideration of complaints filed by ISFED in court
ISFED filed a total of 19 complaints in common courts concerning Election Day summary protocols of the Georgian parliamentary elections, in order to challenge DEC decisions refusing to recount voting results or leaving complaints without consideration in respect of 33 polling stations. Based on the complaints filed, court ordered two DECs to recount voting results at four PECs.
Due to the limited timeframe and resources, the organization was able to file only 13 complaints in the first instance court and 6 complaints in the appellate court.
Among 13 complaints filed in the first instance court, seeking recount of voting results at 33 PECs, court partially satisfied the request to recount majoritarian election results at one PEC only (Samgori 05.06.41). Based on the recount of results and review of materials, it was established that data corrected on the basis of a correction protocol was similar to the data provided in PEC materials and the results had not been changed.
From 6 complaints filed in appellate courts, Tbilisi Appellate Court partially satisfied only 1 complaint and ordered Saburtalo DEC to recount election results at 3 precincts (03.03.25 proportional and majoritarian; 03.03.56 proportional; 03.03.33 proportional). Notably, during recount of results, Saburtalo DEC did not open and examine signatures of voters that cast a ballot. ISFED filed an additional complaint in connection to this fact.
• At the election precinct 03.03.25, results were not changed after the recount, however as noted earlier, voter lists were not checked.
• At the election precinct 03.03.33, incomplete recount of votes revealed that #41 Georgian Dream had 317 votes in the protocol, while following the recount it was revealed that it has received 318 votes; #5 the United National Movement had 226 according to the protocol while following the recount it turned out that the UNM has received 225 votes; number of invalid ballots was 25 according to the protocol, while the recount revealed 26 invalid ballots.
• At the election precinct 03.03.56, incomplete recount of results revealed that the number of invalid ballots according to the summary protocol was 53, in the correction protocol it was 35, while the recount revealed 34 invalid ballots.
In the process of consideration of complaints filed by ISFED in court, the following regrettable trends were identified:
- Courts did not understand their role in the election process
Most common courts, including second instance courts were not able to adequately understand the importance of their role against the background of the recent developments in the country. Since the appellate court is the highest instance for such types of disputes, leaving complaints without consideration kills any hope that at precincts where disbalance and overwritten data was found – the truth would be established. Reasonable doubt will continue to exist about these precincts. Court failed to become the guarantor of democracy and fair elections.
- Incompetence of some judges handling election disputes was clear
Some judges are not adequately familiar with the election law, which prevented them from handling the election disputes in a competent manner. They were not knowledgeable about election procedures, election documents and their importance. Failure to adequately assess correction protocols, commission member statements and their legal importance was a problem. For some judges, it was difficult to grasp issues involved in a complaint. The plaintiff had to explain to them a few times about the significance of summary protocols and correction protocols, the difference between them, contents of a logbook and the importance of comparing their data, as well as how these documents are filled out in general and which rules regulate these acts.
- The problem of bias in favor of the election administration was found
Courts usually fully upheld all opinions and reasoning of the administrative body – district election commissions, even when their arguments were not corroborated and/or were challenged by well-founded arguments of the plaintiff. Instead of fulfilling their legal function to control legitimacy of actions of administrative bodies and establish standards to create a better practice, they only confirmed decisions made by district commissions.
- Court decisions are inadequately reasoned
On the most part, court decisions contain standardized texts. Interestingly, reasoning and opinion provided in decisions of different courts are identical. Notably, decisions contain arguments that concern irrelevant norms of the Election Code. On the most part, main issues raised by complaints are overlooked or are addressed in a superficial manner. Courts did not address in detail and verify effectiveness of complaints process by the administrative body. Courts paid insufficient attention to verification of material legitimacy of orders appealed before them. They disregarded substantiated arguments of the plaintiff and reference to violations.
- Delay in passing court decisions to the parties
Court usually fails to pass the decisions to the parties in a timely manner, even when having a reasoned decision is necessary for appealing in the higher instance. The deadline for appealing is counted from the day the decision is announced, as opposed to the day it is passed to the party. Such delays are unfortunately a common practice, while there are strict deadlines for filing an appeal and even if you fail to meet the deadline by a single minute, court refuses to accept the appeal. In view of the limited timeframe for appealing, this made it even more difficult to lodge appeals in higher court.