|PACE Monitors on Pre-Election Situation in Georgia|
|April 16, 2008|
April 16, 2008
The document, which was declassified at the PACE Monitoring Committee meeting in Strasbourg on April 16, was drafted by co-rapporteurs on Georgia Matyas Eorsi (Hungary) and Kastriot Islami (Albania), who visited Georgia on March 26-27.
“The political climate is still dominated by a lack of trust and absence of constructive dialogue between the authorities and the opposition,” the document reads. “In an unwelcome development, the debate has become highly personalised, with the authorities calling persons with dissenting political opinion traitors and criminals, while the opposition calls for the dismissal of several prominent personalities, instead of engaging in a constructive dialogue with them.”
“The lack of trust and co-operation is most evident in the failure of the electoral reform that the authorities and the opposition agreed upon in the aftermath of the November 2007 events.”
It points out that amendments to the election code passed by Parliament in March take into account several recommendations made by PACE, “although a number of other recommendations remain unaddressed.”
The document lists, as improvements, the abolition of the additional voters’ lists and voter registration on polling day; lowering of the election threshold from 7% to 5%; the simplification and clarification of election related complaints and appeals procedures; the introduction of party representation in the District Election Commissions.
“Regrettably, the amendments, inter alia, failed to address concerns regarding the use of CCTV cameras in the polling stations and abolished, contrary to Venice Commission recommendations, the possibility for individual candidatures in the Parliamentary elections [majoritarian MP candidates can only be nominated by parties or election blocs],” it says.
The Georgian Public Defender recently complained that recent amendments to the election code had restricted access to the footage recorded by the CCTV cameras at the polling stations. Although election observers and other election stake-holders present at a polling station will have the right to access CCTV polling station footage, they will, however, have to indicate a concrete time for an alleged violation and will only be given access to that particular, 15-minute, portion of footage, according to the amendments.
The document says that the Georgian authorities should properly investigate all the electoral violations in order “to reassure the public that the authorities are serious about fair elections.”
“We regret, in this respect, that the authorities failed to convince us that they had shown sufficient political will to investigate all violations that occurred during the last Presidential elections,” the PACE monitors said.
The document also notes, what it calls, “a notable change of attitude of the opposition towards the international community in general and the Assembly in particular.”
Eorsi was targeted by the Georgian opposition ahead of the January 5 presidential election, accusing him of biased reporting on the situation in Georgia in favor of the authorities.
“Most opposition parties noted that the Assembly’s report on the observation of the Presidential elections had been balanced and to the point – even if they did not agree with all of its conclusions - and they no longer questioned the impartiality of the rapporteurs or the Assembly,” the document reads. “In addition, a number of opposition parties openly admitted that they had made mistakes and miscalculations in their negotiations with the authorities, which had negatively affected their popular support.”
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