ISFED Presented Second Interim Report for the Official Election Period
During the reporting period and based on its observation, ISFED revealed: two facts of politically motivated physical violence; four facts of dismissal or pressure to resign on allegedly political grounds; 21 facts of pressure/intimidation/obstruction on allegedly political grounds; 15 facts of alleged misuse of administrative resources and participation of unauthorized persons in the pre-election campaign; five facts of alleged vote buying; one case of campaigning by an acting official; five facts of politicization of educational institutions; one case of pressure against ISFED observer. Across the country, damage of agitation materials was observed. Similar to previous elections, high- ranking clergy is again present at the pre-election campaign and candidate nomination events of the ruling party.
The dynamics of the current pre-election campaign were significantly shaken by the publication on 13 September of information about covert surveillance by the State Security Service of Georgia (SSSG).
It was alarming to hear the information, aired by TV Pirveli on September 11, 2021, that the SSSG was collecting information about school principals and teachers and creating so-called dossiers. The political views of persons employed in the educational institutions and the party activities of their family members have, in some cases, led to the termination of employment contracts with them. This includes public school principals whose six-year term employment contracts expired in the run-up to the 2020 parliamentary elections and were no longer extended as they fell victim of discrimination
On the night of 17 September, banners with political content appeared in the capital and several major cities of Georgia displaying images of not only politicians and election subjects, but media representatives as well. Similar banners with violent content, depicting various politicians or members of the media have been posted several times in the past. Propaganda of violence during the election period is prohibited, as is an anonymous donation. ISFED appealed to the Central Election Commission (CEC) and the State Audit Office of Georgia (SAO) to investigate and respond to the case within their competences;
During the reporting period, the process of staffing of precinct election commissions (PECs) by authorized parties was noteworthy. Not all the authorized parties were able to utilize the quotas for appointing members to the commissions. As such, some of the district election commissions (DECs) announced competitions to fill up to 17 commission members. It should be noted that the proportion between members selected on professional basis and party-appointed members in such polling stations is violated: in those PECs, where additional commission members were appointed by DECs, the number of members appointed on a professional basis exceeds the number of members appointed by the parties;
While monitoring the first sessions of the PECs, it was noticeable that the commissioners had little information about which political party nominated them. On a number of occasions, individuals appointed by DECs were surprised that they were not nominated by a political party. Also, some of the members appointed by opposition parties did not know specifically which party nominated them; They considered themselves to be the representatives of the ruling party and only found out a name of the nominating party during trainings, when filling out a registration form. This caused a discontent among some of them.
With election day approaching, similar to previous elections, the nature of the violations observed during the pre-election period is getting more severe. Facts of physical confrontation and wounding of opposition supporters with a cold weapon were registered;
There are still cases of dismissals from work and pressure / threats on political grounds. It is noteworthy that there were several cases of pressuring opposition candidates to withdraw from the race. Such a trend is observed throughout the country;
There are again signs of the use of administrative resources for partisan purposes, in favor of the ruling party candidates. The tendency of participation of unauthorized persons in the election campaign, usually in favor of the ruling party, is still present and includes a large-scale campaigning on Facebook during working hours by public officials and other public sector employees;
There were cases of violence against journalists while performing their duties, which also showed signs of illegal interference in the work of media. On 7 September, the operator of TV Pirveli was deliberately hit by a car while covering a story on a special police operation in Ponichala. The video footage shows the car plates. On 15 September, according to the cameraman and a journalist of Mtavari TV, they were physically assaulted when filming a story in the Kareli office of the Georgian Dream, where the cameraman was thrown from the second floor and received multiple injuries.
Since the start of the official election campaign inclusive of 21 September, ISFED filed 27 applications and complaints with election commissions, courts, and other relevant agencies to address violations reported by the organization.
Under the free legal aid project, the organization filed 19 lawsuits in public courts across the country to protect the rights of individuals dismissed from public service, state or municipal LEPLs, non-entrepreneurial (non- commercial) legal entities, and public schools on allegedly political grounds.
This report was prepared by the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the European Union, and the Open Society Foundations. The opinions expressed herein belong solely to the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy and may not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the US Government, the European Union or the Open Society Foundations.