U.S. Says Widespread Violations Negatively Affected Free Vote

The U.S. Embassy, in a starkly-worded statement on the second round of local polls, voiced concern over “wide-spread violations in the pre-election period and on both election days that adversely affected the ability of citizens to vote freely.”

The Embassy said this undermined Georgia’s positive steps forward, including the amendments to election legislation, adopted in June, which had “largely succeeded in increasing the transparency of the voting process.”   

The statement pointed out that rather than improving the atmosphere by addressing problems identified in the first round of polls, “intimidation, offensive rhetoric, misuse of administrative resources, and reports of blatant vote-buying and other violations continued, and a politicized media further inflamed the polarized atmosphere.”

“We are particularly troubled by credible reports of violence against election observers and the media during both rounds of the election,” the Embassy highlighted, adding that these groups are “the cornerstone of any democracy” and that any attacks against them shall be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The Embassy said the process of complaint reviews and random recounts is now “both a test and an opportunity for the Central Election Commission and the courts, and it will be critical for these institutions to perform their duties transparently and impartially.”

It called on all parties to use legal mechanisms available and pursue “peaceful means” to adjudicate election disputes, adding that “democracy in Georgia will not be strengthened by resorting to violence or pursuing solutions outside the law.”  

The U.S. Embassy shared OSCE/ODIHR’s assessment that the elections were “generally calm and well-administered,” but allegations of intimidation and pressure on voters persisted, and continued polarization and escalation of negative rhetoric adversely affected the process.

Touching on ODIHR monitors reporting observer organizations acting as party supporters, at times interfering with the process on Election Day and concerns over the impartiality of the lower-level election commissions, the Embassy said its observers also “witnessed similar interference and bias at several precincts.” 

Noting that “each election – even imperfect ones – offers lessons learned and an opportunity to address persistent abuses that have degraded recent elections and eroded the public’s trust in their democratic institutions,” the U.S. Embassy urged Georgia’s leaders to enact and implement all the remaining reforms recommended by ODIHR, the Venice Commission and other international experts.

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