The OSCE launches election observation mission
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation arrived in Georgia on August 20 and met with the representatives of the ruling party, the opposition and various Georgian NGOs. According to the Vice-speaker of Georgia Gigi Tsereteli, the main purpose of the commission was to evaluate the pre-election conditions inside the country and the political campaigns held by Georgian political forces.
The first meeting was held with Zurab Kharatishvili, Chair of the Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC) and Mamuka Katsitadze, Chair of the Commission for Ensuring Voter’s List Accuracy. Later, there was an appointment with the members of Georgian NGOs including the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) and Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia).
The Chairperson of the GYLA, Tamar Chugoshvili informed the OSCE delegation regarding activities of the Audit Office of Georgia. Nino Lomjaria, the Chairperson of ISFED emphasized the problems that exist regarding the free media. Meanwhile, Eka Gigauri, Chairperson of Transparency International Georgia, expressed concerns regarding the use of administrative resources by the government during the pre-election period.
The second working-day was given to meetings with Georgian political parties. The members of the OSCE delegation met with Vice-Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Gigi Tsereteli and Georgian Dream Coalition representatives.
Maia Panjikidze, the Press Speaker for the Georgian Dream Coalition, noted that the OSCE delegation members were interested in how the main opposition subject perceives the political situation inside the country.
Later, on August 22, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) announced the launch of the election observation mission for Georgia’s October 1 parliamentary elections. The mission includes a core team of 15 experts; additionally, a 28 person team of observers will join the mission next week. The ODIHR mission will remain in Georgia until the middle of October.
The mission is headed by the experienced Nikolai Vulchanov of Bulgaria. Vulchanov led OSCE/ODIHR observation missions for Georgia’s 1999 parliamentary and 2000 presidential elections.
According to statement made by Nikolai Vulchanov on August 22, the ODIHR has asked the OSCE participating states to send 350 short-term observers to monitor the Election Day and counting process. “If this request is met by the participating states on Election Day, there will be probably around 400 [observers] from the ODIHR alone.”
The ODIHR long-term mission plans to publish two interim reports regarding pre-election conditions in the country in the middle of September and a week before the parliamentary elections. Additionally, the mission aims to release preliminary findings and conclusion a day after the election. Meanwhile, the final report will be available two-months after the results of the elections are concluded.
According to Volchanov, the ODIHR long-term mission does not intend to evaluate the fairness of the parliamentary elections in Georgia: “We are not here to determine whether the election is legitimate or not… We are here to establish based on a body of facts collected by our observers, whether the election complied with the legislation and the international commitments of Georgia, but that’s where we stop.”
The OSCE is the first international organization that has officially expressed its willingness to observe the parliamentary elections set for October 1. Earlier, during the briefing held at the Chicago NATO Summit, President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili asked the main international institutions such as the ODIHR, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament to send official long-term missions to Georgia for the observation and evaluation of the pre-election and election periods in the state.
On April 6 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia sent the organizations official invitations. Georgian oppositional parties as well as various NGOs supported the ruling party in its aspiration to attract more observers for the pre-election and election periods in order to avoid any rumors regarding the fairness of the vote.
It is expected that the existence of international observers of considerable institutions such as the OSCE, EU and NATO, will force political subjects to be active in the scope of ‘free and fair’ elections and operate within the rules national legislation sets out. In particular, chief Georgian opposition force– the Georgian Dream Coalition, as well as Georgian NGOs working on behalf of human rights, expect international observers top provide relevant pressure on the ruling party to avoid incidents of the abuse of administrative resources and oppressive actions against opposition activists.
By Archil Sikharulidze