The International Republican Institute (IRI) today released the final report of its assessment of the pre-election period and the first round of the municipal elections on October 2, 2021, by its Technical Election Assessment Mission (TEAM) in Georgia.
The report highlights positive developments following the implementation of the 2021 electoral reforms, a volatile campaign season, and a subsequent controversial recount.
Based on the report, this was the first election since new reforms were adopted by the Georgian Parliament last June. Reforms were made affecting the composition of election commissions, pre-election campaign regulations, vote tabulation, electoral dispute resolution, and the election of candidates to Sakrebulos (municipal councils). Upon review, these reforms appeared to bring the electoral framework closer to international standards. However, the reforms did not meet all the recommendations of outside groups and citizen observers.
“The electoral framework demonstrated strong improvements since the last election,” said IRI Regional Director for Eurasia Stephen Nix. “This has helped restore some level of public trust in electoral management bodies. Although it is far from perfect, progress has been made.”
During the campaign period, IRI’s TEAM found increasingly worrisome trends of violence, intimidation, pressure against voters and candidates, and abuse of administrative resources, further blurring the lines between the government and ruling party. Election Day was largely peaceful at polling stations, with a number of procedural shortcomings, none of which appeared to be systematically orchestrated. However, domestic and international observers did note heightened mobilization of party representatives and attempts to track voters outside of polling stations.
“A consistent or rising pattern of politically motivated violence and intimidation towards voters and candidates is a serious threat to any democracy,” said Nix. “Despite a peaceful Election Day, more needs to be done to create a free and fair process for all Georgians. Our report demonstrates an urgent need to improve the campaign environment.”
The report also notes that the recount process was controversial, uncovering a 33% imbalance in summary protocols. While votes were redistributed based on the recounts, these errors would not significantly alter the overall results of the first round.