Local elections in Georgia: Congress recommends further levelling of the playing field, reducing polarisation and increasing participation of women
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.
- Report CPL(2022)42-02
- See also: Vote on 2 October was a missed opportunity for local democracy in Georgia, says Head of 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.
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:
“By organising these “elections”, the so-called “de facto” authorities of Abkhazia, once again, undermined the principle of the territorial integrity of Georgia forcing this region further into isolation, to the detriment of the local population.
The Congress has always shown its unrelenting commitment to the territorial integrity of member States within its internationally recognised borders. This principle is all the more important in the current context of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine.
Not only since 24 February we know that the illegal recognition of territories of other member States can be only one step ahead of further aggression and war. This is the bitter lesson we have to learn, eventually.
Therefore, all sort of action undermining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a member State, is to be strongly condemned. The so-called “elections” organised in Abkhazia fall under this category and do not recognise the illegal occupation of Abkhazia by the Russian Federation. The “vote” organised in Abkhazia on 12 March, instead of strengthening, further erodes stability in this region and is, moreover, the wrong signal at the wrong time.”
Meeting of Irakli Kobakhidze with Andreas Kiefer, Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe
The Majority Leader, PACE Vice-President Irakli Kobakhidze met with Andreas Kiefer, Secretary General of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe to discuss the cooperation between Georgia and the Council of Europe.
The conversation also touched upon the implemented and ongoing reforms in Georgia, as well as the importance of further strengthening self-government and regional policy.
The parties reaffirmed their commitment for further cooperation.
"Georgia was a very active presiding country of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the cooperation with various actors was excellent. Last year, the President of the Congress served a very fruitful visit to Georgia. We held high-level meetings where we were briefed on the results of the decentralization reform and the following steps. The Congress is interested in continuing the dialogue and we are pleased that the Georgian Parliamentary Assembly's delegation includes people who know what local and regional democracy means. The bridge between the Congress and the Parliament of Georgia will be the Vice President of the Congress, Tamar Taliashvili. We look forward to cooperating next year as well", - A. Kiefer stated after the meeting.
According to T. Taliashvili, the Secretary General of the Congress supports the ongoing reforms in Georgia.
"The Congress of the Council of Europe is the most important organization on the continent of Europe, researching and working on issues related to democracy and the rule of law in self-government. Therefore, the full support of the Secretary of this organization in connection with the ongoing reforms in Georgia is very important for our country. There will be local self-government elections in Georgia this year and the readiness of this very important organization to be a participant in these processes is one of the most vital and advanced steps for the development of local democracy in our country", - T. Taliashvili remarked.
According to G. Khojevanishvili, the Parliament of Georgia will cooperate even more actively with the Congress.
"The support of a high-ranking official such as the President of the Congress of the Council of Europe is extremely important. We had a very business meeting, we talked about important issues such as decentralization, further strengthening of self-government, strengthening of regional policy and support, so we are actively going to work more closely with the Congress in the future", - G. Khojevanishvili commented.