OSCE Observation Mission Reports on Presidential Runoffs

"The second round of Georgia’s presidential election was competitive and candidates were able to campaign freely, however one side enjoyed an undue advantage and the negative character of the campaign on both sides undermined the process," reads the opening line of the Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions from the OSCE's election observation mission for Georgia's presidential runoffs on November 28.

The report continues, "Elections were well administered; yet, the lack of regulation of key aspects of the second round did not provide legal certainty. The campaign was marred by harsh rhetoric. Increased misuse of administrative resources further blurred the line between party and state. Private media continued to demonstrate sharp polarization and clear bias, while the public broadcaster did not ensure editorial independence and impartiality. On election day, voters actively took part and the process was assessed positively, although the observed tracking of voters reinforced concerns about potential intimidation."

It also notes that "The legal framework insufficiently regulates key aspects of the second round," and that "Campaign finance reporting requirements for the second round were determined only less than two weeks before the second round."

The most striking aspect of the report was concern expressed over potential intimidation and a grey area of manipulation. Specifically, "The use of negative, harsh and at times violent rhetoric significantly overshadowed the campaign and went unaddressed by authorities. In the campaign there were incidents of the misuse of administrative resources and the announcement of a series of social and financial initiatives, in particular debt relief for 600,000 individuals by a private financial institution linked to the chairperson of the ruling party. These incidents and the involvement of senior state officials from the ruling party in the campaign, continued to blur the line between the state and the party. The gathering of voter data and mapping of political preferences, in combination with tracking of voters on election day , raised concerns about the potential for intimidation and the ability of voters to vote free of fear of retribution, as provided for by the OSCE commitments, as well as Council of Europe and other international standards."

The full report is available to download here: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/georgia/404642?download=true 

By Samantha Guthrie

Photo: OSCE

30 November 2018 16:10