The CEC is misinterpreting ISFED’s statement

In response to the statement issued by the Central Election Commission (CEC) on August 22 regarding the assessment over the staffing of the election administration, ISFED declares that the CEC statement contains inaccuracies and groundless accusations at the expense of misinterpreting of ISFED findings.

The CEC, whose primary responsibility is to discuss and address violations identified by observers, attempts to undo the trends determined by the organization, instead of responding to them. This indicates a lack of constructive will on the part of the CEC to rectify the shortcomings and does not contribute to the creation of a healthy environment for cooperation.

Issues raised in the CEC statement are misinterpretations of the key trends and facts identified in the ISFED statement and are misleading due to the following circumstances:  

  1. According to the CEC, ISFED’s observation that the majority of the members of the District Election Commission voted for the first 8 candidates on the list of candidates is untrue, since 8 or fewer applications were submitted for 8 vacancies in 2 584 polling stations.

ISFED’s statement does not argue that selection of the first eight candidates of the list was the common practice among the majority of the election commission members. In addition, the organization’s statement did not refer to the precincts where the number of candidates was less than 8 or equal to 8. In fact, ISFED’s statement explicitly notes that such practice had been observed in those precincts, where the number of candidates for PEC membership exceeded 8. Since the statement doesn’t mention the specific number of precincts, the ground for CEC’s accusations remains unclear.  

  1. According to the CEC, ISFED’s assertion as if the PEC members are affiliated with the ruling party (due to their current or recent activities) and its subsequent claim that a majority of PEC members selected by the District Electoral Commissions are affiliated with the ruling party, might be considered as manipulation with facts.

First and foremost, ISFED hasn’t argued that the partisan affiliation pertained to the majority of PEC members. In addition, the CEC narrowed down the definition of partisan affiliation to one criterion - whether a candidate had been nominated by a political party or not, when in fact, many other forms of partisan affiliation exist. ISFED reiterates that the issue of professional members’ partisan affiliation poses a significant challenge to the credibility of the electoral process, which requires adequate recognition by the election administration and subsequent effective measures.

  1. According to the CEC, the election administration’s reputation is damaged by ISFED’s appeal that for the 2020 Parliamentary Elections a disciplinary liability had been imposed on a person elected to the position of a member of the election commission.

With its statement, the CEC confirms that ISFED’s finding regarding the election of convicted candidates is correct. Though it notes that out of 29,086 elected members of PECs, just 4 persons had double disciplinary sanctions imposed. Thus, the generalization of particular cases intended to discredit the process. ISFED believes that the CEC’s reputation is more damaged with its attempt to hide the issue from the public, rather than from the issue itself. ISFED’s mission is to identify irregularities and inform the election administration and stakeholders so that all shortcomings are timely addressed. ISFED explicitly stated that the case of a disciplined person was a particular case and did not attempt to generalize.

  1. The CEC contends that ISFED’s assessment as if DEC members had a pre-prepared list of favorable candidates is untrue.

At DEC meetings, ISFED observers have noticed pre-prepared lists of favorable candidates, evidence of which the organization has collected via photos.

Interestingly, in its statement, CEC expresses unconditional trust in DEC members despite having very little information about their real intent.

Regrettably, as ISFED has acknowledged and reiterated in its numerous statements and reports, pre-selection of candidates has been the prevalent practice for many years. The formality of the selection process of PEC members remains the main challenge in staffing the election administration.

  1. The CEC stated that it could not share the organization’s assumption that the competitors’ applications were prepared by a single person since the recommended form of application was provided in advance and the fact that the applications were homogenous should not lead to speculations.

Obviously, ISFED’s statement referred to the content, not the format as it meant to shed the light on the suspicious resemblances of the content of contestants’ applications, which cannot be explained by the standard model of the application form. However, in its statement, CEC is shifting gears to the format, avoiding the argument on the content.

  1. ISFED’s observation that the DEC members appointed by the United National Movement, European Georgiaand Lelo did not participate in the voting process, was considered as harmful to the electoral process by the CEC, arguing it hasn’t had the leverage to influence the activity of aforementioned election subjects.

ISFED has not argued that CEC ought to have influenced opposition party representatives. Thus, it’s unclear what’s the ground for CEC’s accusations against the organization. Opposition parties’ decision not to participate in the election of PEC candidates is a mere fact and if concerning, CEC could have put more effort to engage them in the process.  

In addition, the CEC also noted that it could not share ISFED’s assessment regarding the unequal competing conditions of contestants, determined by the live broadcasting of some candidates’ interviews, to which everybody could keep an eye on. In the ISFED statement, a live broadcast of candidates’ interviews was unequivocally assessed as a positive tendency.  Though, at the same time, ISFED also highlighted unequal competing environment was created by the fact that some of the candidates refused to broadcast his/her interviews, while others were aired live. Unfortunately, the CEC ignored this part of the statement.

ISFED’s mission is to rigorously monitor the election process, identify all notable trends and disseminate its findings to the public. The organization has been serving this mission in a good faith for more than 25 years. ISFED’s independent assessments and identified shortcomings should be considerable to the election administration and address them objectively, in a timely manner. In doing so, CEC’s constructive cooperation spirit can positively impact either the improvement of the electoral process or the authority of the administration.

ISFED believes that staffing the election commissions at all levels with high qurom (2/3) and multi-party support was vital for building trust in the election administration. ISFED continues to monitor the electoral process and will provide the public with updated observations.