Strasbourg, 12.09.2012 – The forthcoming parliamentary elections in Georgia, on 1 October 2012, are crucial for Georgia’s democratic development and will be a litmus test to confirm the country’s commitment to democratic values and principles, said the pre-electoral delegation (1) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that visited Tbilisi on 11 and 12 September 2012.
The pre-electoral delegation welcomed the competitive and pluralist election environment, which will give the voter a real choice between distinct alternatives on election day. However, the delegation expressed its serious concern about the increasing polarisation and antagonism in the pre-electoral environment, which is overshadowing the election campaign. Parties should refrain from such negative campaigning and focus on informing voters about their views and party platforms, according to their proper duties and responsibilities.
Genuinely democratic elections need an open and inclusive pre-electoral environment in which all parties have equal opportunities to inform voters about their programmes and political priorities. The authorities and all electoral stakeholders should therefore take all necessary steps to ensure a constructive and inclusive campaign environment and refrain from any action that would increase tensions or undermine the full and equal participation of all parties in the electoral process.
The delegation stresses the importance of an equal playing field for all electoral contestants. It calls upon the authorities to continue to step up their efforts to eradicate the abuse of administrative resources. In addition, the delegation fully reaffirms the statement made by PACE’s co-rapporteurs for Georgia regarding the fines levied by the State Audit Service. In that respect the delegation welcomes the decision by the authorities not to levy the fines against the opposition parties that make up the Georgian Dream coalition. At the same time the delegation calls upon all electoral contestants to fully abide by the electoral legislation and stresses that perceived injustices in the law are not, and cannot be, a justification for breaking the law.
The mass media play a crucial role in the electoral process, as they are often the primary source of information for voters to acquaint themselves with the views of the parties contesting the elections. Full and equal access of all parties to the media, as well as impartial coverage by media outlets are therefore an essential condition for democratic elections. In that regard, the delegation welcomed the improvement in pluralism of the media environment as a result of the “must offer, must carry” legislation. The delegation notes that these provisions do not cover election day and the immediate post-electoral period. It invites the authorities to consider extending the period in which the “must offer, must carry” provisions are mandatory and for media providers to consider voluntarily abiding by these principles until the election process has been finalised. At the same time, it notes that cable television is not widely spread in a number of regions in Georgia. The delegation therefore calls upon the authorities to explore all possibilities to improve media access in those regions not covered by cable television.
The delegation noted the efficient technical preparations for these elections as a result of the new Electoral Code. In this respect it especially welcomed the work of the cross-party Voters' List Verification Commission to improve the quality of the voters list, which should contribute to increased public trust in the electoral process and its outcome.This bi-partisan effort underlines the possibilities for co-operation between opposition parties and ruling party to improve the democratic process in the country.
The delegation welcomed the work of the Inter Agency Task Force to increase public trust in the election process. Public trust in the impartiality and fairness of the electoral process is essential for democratic elections. All parties and state actors should therefore take all possible steps to strengthen the public trust in the election process and refrain from any action that could undermine it. For the same reason, the delegation urges all election contestants not to question the legitimacy of the election and its outcome before the elections have even taken place.
The Assembly will return with a delegation to observe the elections in Georgia on 1 October 2012.
Nathalie Bargellini, tel. +33 6 65 40 32 82, Nathalie.Bargellini@coe.int
1. The pre-electoral delegation consisted of Luca Volontè (Italy, EPP/CD), Head of Delegation; Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EDG); and Meritxell Mateu Pi (Andorra, ALDE); as well as Boriss Cilevics (Latvia, SOC) and Michael Aastrup Jensen (Denmark, ALDE), who are also the co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Georgia of the Assembly.
The Assembly brings together 318 members from the national parliaments of the 47 member states.
President:Jean-Claude Mignon (EPP/CD) - Secretary General of the Assembly: Wojciech Sawicki.
Political groups: EPP/CD (Group of the European People's Party); SOC (Socialist Group);
EDG (European Democrat Group); ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe);
UEL (Group of the Unified European Left).