Local elections in Georgia: Congress recommends further levelling of the playing field, reducing polarisation and increasing participation of women

Published in Society
Thursday, 24 March 2022 12:01

Strasbourg, 23 March 2022 – At its 42nd Plenary Session, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe adopted, on 23 March 2022, a recommendation on local elections in Georgia (2 October 2021) following an election observation mission deployed by the Congress from 29 September to 3 October 2021.

The Congress delegation expressed satisfaction with orderly Election Day procedures, in particular against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rapporteur David Eray (Switzerland, EPP/CCE) welcomed a technically well organised and generally calm Election Day and an election legislation generally conducive to holding democratic elections.

However, the rapporteur highlighted observed irregularities that, to some extent, affected the quality of the election process. In the recommendation, the Congress regrets an unnecessarily complex election legislation, widespread allegations of intimidation, vote-buying as well as of pressure on candidates and voters. Regrettably, the elections were also marked by an unlevel playing field, emanating from the dominance of the ruling party which largely benefited from the advantage of incumbency.

“To our regret, the election campaign was characterised by extremely high tensions and the elections, instead of being about local issues, became rather a referendum about the current government. As a result, the local elections were overshadowed by national issues and I would even say that democracy on local level was taken hostage of the overall national political situation.”, emphasised Mr Eray.

In light of these observations, the adopted recommendation invites the authorities of Georgia to implement measures to step up the effectiveness of all legal provisions to ensure a more even level-playing field, to increase participation of women, and to prevent the misuse of administrative resources. It recommends strengthening the regulatory framework to ensure accountability and transparency of campaign finances.

Lastly, the report encourages national authorities to consider introducing effective measures to fight online fake news and hate speech to tackle polarisation of the society.

Further to the invitation by the Georgian authorities, the Congress carried out an election observation mission from 29 September to 3 October 2021 and observed the local elections held on 2 October as part of a joint international election observation mission together with the OSCE/ODIHR and the European Parliament. The Congress mission comprised 18 members representing 15 Council of Europe countries who observed elections in 9 regions of Georgia, visiting in total some 120 polling stations from the opening until the closing.

See alsoCongress webpage on the observation of local and regional elections

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  • FACT SHEET: White House Calls on Congress to Provide Additional Support for Ukraine

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    Additional Economic Aid to Support Democracy in Ukraine

    The Administration is calling on Congress to provide an additional $8.5 billion in economic assistance to help the Government of Ukraine respond to the immediate crisis and continue to provide basic citizen services. This includes funds to:

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    Strasbourg, 16 March2022 - Reacting to recent so-called “parliamentary elections” held on 12 March 2022 in the Abkhazia region in Georgia, the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Leendert Verbeek, made the following statement:

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  • Vote on 2 October was a missed opportunity for local democracy in Georgia, says Head of Congress delegation

    Strasbourg, 4 October 2021 - The Congress concluded its mission to observe the local elections held on 2 October in Georgia. David ERAY (Switzerland, EPP/CCE, R), Head of the delegation, underlined the extremely polarized political environment in the country as well as an increase in verbal aggression, hate speech and fake news on social media during the campaign. “This polarisation had a paralyzing effect on local democracy which, in fact, has been taken hostage of the overall national political situation. Against this background, this poll was a missed opportunity for local democracy in Georgia”, Mr Eray stated. The overall unlevel playing field, pressure on voters and vote-buying were further features of these elections which raised concern of the Congress delegation.

    Further to the invitation by the Georgian authorities, the Congress carried out an election observation mission from 29 September to 3 October 2021 and observed the local elections held on 2 October as part of a joint international election observation mission together with the OSCE/ODIHR and the European Parliament. The Congress mission comprised 18 members representing 15 Council of Europe countries who observed elections in 9 regions of Georgia, visiting in total some 120 polling stations from the opening until the closing.

    The Election Day was overall calm, orderly, transparent and well organised. Except for some inconsistencies, particularly regarding the set-up of polling booths and finger-inking, the Congress observers did not notice major shortcomings during the voting procedures. Some polling stations in urban areas, mostly in Tbilisi, were comparatively small considering the large number of commission members and domestic observers and thus over-crowded. This led also to some confusion about the different roles of election workers, notably during the counting. Some of the Congress observers also reported violations of the new regulation on the 100-meter-perimeter around polling stations.

    Although new regulations were put in place to increase number of women on candidate lists by placing at least one in every three candidates of the opposite gender on the ballot, this legal provision proved insufficient as women were almost always placed as the third, sixth or ninth candidate, thus having much lower chances to get elected than their male counterparts. “In our opinion, this was against the spirit of the law”, Mr Eray stated. 

    Prior to the Election Day, the Congress delegation held meetings in Tbilisi with various interlocutors, including representatives of the diplomatic corps, domestic and international NGOs, media representatives, the Central Elections Commission and with the Deputy Minister of Justice and Head of Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections, Mr Tornike Cheishvili. Meetings with representatives from different parties including GD, UNM, For Georgia and European Georgia rounded off the preparatory programme of the Congress. The Congress report will be presented at the next Monitoring Committee and adopted during the 42nd Congress Plenary in March 2022.

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