The International Republican Institute (IRI) today released the pre-election findings of its Technical Election Assessment Mission (TEAM), deployed to Georgia prior to the October 31, 2020 parliamentary election.
The analysis of six long-term analysts based in Tbilisi, this report is the first in a series of publications assessing the integrity of Georgia’s 2020 elections. The findings are informed by meetings with political parties, non-governmental organizations, election commission officials and other stakeholders to evaluate the election administration, political and campaign environment, media and information space and safety measures put in place to hold elections amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
To demonstrate continued support for electoral integrity in Georgia, IRI offers the following short-term recommendations: Government
• To protect the health and safety of all Georgian voters, election officials, political actors, the Central Election Commission (CEC) and public health authorities should continue to inform the public about newly adopted decrees regarding COVID-19 voting procedures and safety and sanitation measures, as well as beseech all political parties and their supporters to collectively adhere to Election Day health protocols.
• The government, Central Election Commission, State Audit Office and Interagency Commission on Free and Fair Elections should continually reinforce and communicate to the public the distinct roles and responsibilities of public servants, and prohibit their participation in partisan activities and the use of administrative resources in their official capacity. To promote transparency and accountability, proven incidents of abuse of administrative resources should be sanctioned and made public.
• To avoid overreliance on external sources to investigate campaign finances, the government should prioritize and invest resources in the State Audit Office so that it is able to thoroughly and professionally investigate campaign-finance activity, swiftly sanction violators of the law and publish audit findings in a transparent and timely manner.
• Law enforcement agencies should swiftly investigate and ensure the timely sanction of offenders committing vote buying, abuse of administrative resources and electoral violence, including violence against journalists.
• Complaints not related to the work of the election administration should be examined by a competent institution that has the appropriate legal tools, resources and expertise to consider and resolve complaints. In the longer term, the complaint-resolution system should be examined to ensure that lower-level election bodies have sufficient resources to swiftly resolve legitimate complaints of electoral malpractice.
• Media outlets should take measures to respect and uphold the essential role of a genuinely independent media in a democratic system. Media outlets should refrain from significantly editorializing news content and strictly adhere to universal norms and practices for ethical reporting in broadcast, print and online media.
• To mitigate the perception of political bias and build trust in media institutions, the Georgian Public Broadcaster should take steps to ensure television content is impartial and inclusive of broad audiences.