Big part of the election violations observed by the HRC observers during the 2020 Parliamentary Elections are caused by the low qualification of the PEC members that was very common tendency during the recent elections too.
Also, excessive activity and attempt to control the voters by the coordinators and agitators of political parties is still an alarming tendency. Although respective amendments were introduced to the Election Code and the coordinators of the political parties were prohibited to be present within 25 meters distance of the polling stations, HRC will again reflect this problem in its monitoring report and will underline that mobilization of the coordinators of the political parties, particularly of the ruling party Georgian Dream, within and beyond the 25 meters distance from the precincts is one of the main problems on the Election Day. They are counting the voters who have come, make notes in their lists, talk with them and sometimes they conduct agitations. Similar facts, directly or indirectly, hinder the voters to express their free will.
By 15:00 pm, HRC observers lodged 10 complaints to the PECs and made over 40 notes in the logbook.
Content of most part of the complaints is:
Bolnisi, Precinct # 14.23.47 - a voter was not marked that caused disorder and conflict in the polling station. Observer of the political subject “Power is in Unity” stated that the same registrar had not marked few other voters either. The HRC observer lodged a complaint to the PEC.
Tskaltubo, precinct # 22.58.02 - The supervisor of the ballot box gave two envelopes to a voter and the voter dropped the two ballot papers separately in the ballot box. HRC observer requested disciplinary liability of the violator.
Kutaisi, precinct # 23.59.10 – a regulator of the flow did not regulate the flow of the voters in the precinct that resulted into chaos. After the reprimand and warning, the HRC observer lodged a complaint both to the PEC and DEC. The PEC chairperson initially refused to register the complaint. After the warning that it could cause his administrative liability, the PEC chairperson allowed the HRC observer to register the complaint.
Gardabani, Kesalo village precinct # 64 – HRC observer was holding a cell-phone but was not photo or video-recording anything. The PEC chairperson prohibited him to take photos and threatened with dismissing him from the precinct. The observer lodged a complaint about the restriction of his rights.
Batumi, precinct # 28.79.19 two observers from the political parties were recording the names of the voters, who had arrived at the precinct. HRC observer asked the PEC chairperson to react to the fact as this action may contain the signs of influence on the free will of voters. The PEC chairperson did not react and stated that just the opposite this action protected the precinct from the so-called carousel. The HRC observer lodged a complaint.
Bolnisi. Precinct # 14.23.51 – there was chaos in the precinct from the early morning. A group of people was mobilized in the yard, who created a so-called passage. Some of them used to enter the precinct to help concrete voters and created disorder. The PEC chairperson was not responsive to these violations and did not try to combat the influence on the free will of voters in the yard of the polling station.
Marneuli, precinct 13.22.72 – in the polling process, at 12:00 pm, the PEC chairperson indicated in the demonstration protocol that 270 voters had arrived at the precinct by 12:00 pm. However, the registrars had not counted the real number of signatures. As the chairperson stated, he wrote approximate figure in the protocol. Based on the request of the HRC observer they re-counted the signatures and estimated that 257 voters had arrived by that moment.
Elections without Guns!
Today, a photo was shared in the social network, which shows that the member of the United National Movement, former minister of defense and minister of education, Dimitry Shashkin, together with his supporters, carried firearms. Reportedly, the photo was taken nearby the polling station in Talaveri village of Bolnisi Municipality. Dimitry Shashkin confirmed that he really had firearms in Talaveri village today, though he categorically denied the information that it happened nearby the polling station.
With regard to this fact, the majoritarian candidate of the United National Movement in Dmanisi, Tsalka, Bolnisi and Tetritskaro election districts Kakha Okriashvili also made a comment with media. He said he is also carrying firearm and both he and Dimitry Shashkin have official right to carry firearms.
HRC believes that although any individual may have right to posses weapon in accordance with the law, similar facts significantly damage peaceful election environment in the country and raises doubts that concrete political subjects are interested to influence the free will of the voters that is particularly alarming on the Election Day, in the vicinities of the polling stations. Although possession of the firearms is not violation of the law, it creates discomfort for the voters as they feel being under the control and their right to free choice is restricted.
Above that, for the prevention of the control of the free will of voters, in accordance with the acting regulations, presence of police officers and armed people, in general, is allowed only in exceptional cases in the vicinities of the polling stations but never inside the precinct. Also, police officers may enter the precinct only based on the request and content of the PEC chairperson if their presence is necessary to prevent public disorder in it. In all other instances, presence of armed people is prohibited both inside and around the polling stations in order to combat influence on the free will of voters.
The threat of the spread of COVID-19 in polling stations
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the main challenge of the 2020 Parliamentary Elections is to hold the polling process in safe environment. Regardless the statement of the Central Election Commission that the safety of the voters will be ensured in all precincts, the information provided by the monitors and spread in social media, shows that overcrowded polling stations is a serious problem for what the commission members cannot ensure the social distancing between them. In the regions, many precincts are located in little spaces and even without voters, they are overcrowded with the PEC members, and stationed observers. As a result, the risk of the spread of the infection is increasing. Another problem is that people enter the precincts without facemasks. There are facts, when the voters do not obey the requests of the observers, PEC members and chairpersons to wear facemasks though they do not have respective medical conclusion that cannot wear facemasks because of health problems. The PEC members and observers also demonstrate low civic culture.
Violation of sanitary-hygiene norms in the polling station
HRC observer in the PEC # 5 in the Duisi village, Pankisi Gorge observed blatant violation of the Decree No 38/2020 of the Central Election Commission “On Establishing Certain Election Measures and Sanitary and Hygiene Requirements for the Polling Day of the 31 October 2020 Regular Parliamentary Elections of Georgia for the Purpose of Preventing the Spread of Infection Caused by the Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) (COVID-19)”.
More precisely, as the video-footage made by the HRC observer shows, a PEC member was not wearing a facemask and she was licking her fingers to pick up a ballot paper before handing it to a voter.
In accordance with the CEC Decree, the PEC members shall wear facemasks, protection shields and disposable gloves; besides that a person entitled to be present in a polling station shall not be admitted to the polling station without a face mask and treating of the hands with the disinfectant solution. In this particular case, both requirements of the Decree are violated, that creates increased threat of infecting the voters particularly with the increased statistics of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The individuals authorized to be in the polling stations are obliged to follow all rules determined by the abovementioned decree.
Oppression on the journalist of humanrights.ge
Bolnisi. In Savaneti village, in the precinct # 51, two strangers harassed the journalist of the HRC’s online edition humanrights.ge Idris Rustamov, who holds the accreditation of a media representative from the Central Election Commission. The harassers tried to seize a camera from him. After the observer made clarifications that he was authorized media observer, the strangers left the vicinities of the polling station.
HRC observer reported that in Gardabani municipality, the following incident was observed in the precinct # 40 in Nazarlo village: individuals with the lists were sitting at the table nearby the PEC entrance. One of them was wearing a badge stating that he represented the Youth Center Georgia. They were holding the voters entering the PEC and recorded their names. This action contains the signs of attempted influence on the free choice of the voters. In accordance with the July 2020 amendments to the Election Code, within 25 meters distance of the polling station, it is prohibited to hold voters (Article 45 Paragraph 12 of the Election Code). Based on the request of the HRC monitor, the PEC chairperson of the polling station N 40 requested the violators to leave the territory and the problem was eradicated. It is significant to note that the PEC chairperson had adequate reaction to the violation.
Various violations and remarks:
Batumi, precinct # 28.79.91. A registrar marked a voter before finding his name in the voters’ list. Afterwards it was found out that the voter was not on the list of that particular poling station.
Pankisi Gorge, precinct # 24. There was verbal dispute in the polling station. An elderly voter asked for help but the PEC members did not allow another voter to accompany him into a cabin and the man finally voted with the help of magnifying glass. This fact caused controversy but the chairperson soon solved the incident.
Bolnisi, Savaneti village precinct # 51 was opened 15 minutes later. The PEC members did not manage to arrange the precinct and could not distribute the ballot papers timely. Afterwards, they allowed many people into the precinct together and they managed to keep the recommended social distance only after the HRC observer interfered.
Gori, Tirdznisi village, precinct # 62 – the location of the ballot cabins violates the privacy of polling process of voters. According to the rules, the cabins shall be located close to the wall. In PEC # 62, people walk behind the cabins and they can see how the people vote.
Adigeni, precinct # 17.38.01 – three representatives of the UNM were in the polling stations together during half an hour.
Bolnisi, precinct # 14. 23.37 – a voter take a photo of the ballot paper inside the cabin and the HRC observer made a note in the logbook;
Pankisi Gorge, precinct # 10.18.05 - third registrar of the polling station Lia Kavtarashvili left the working table and assigned her responsibility to Satsiit Margoshvili. None of them calculated the signatures in this process. The violation was recorded in the logbook.
Sagarejo, precinct # 09.11.40 – a voter took a photo of the marked ballot paper and ran away. A note was made in the logbook.
HRC monitors observe the 2020 Parliamentary Elections in seven regions of Georgia – 1. Kakheti – the ethnic minorities inhabited villages of Sagarejo and Akhmeta municipalities; 2. Kvemo Kartli – the ethnic minorities inhabited villages of Gardabani, Marneuli and Bolnisi municipalities; 3. Samegrelo – the villages of Zugdidi municipality adjacent to the occupation line; 4. Shida Kartli – the villages of Gori, Khashuri and Kareli municipalities adjacent to the occupation line, and 5-7) Imereti, Adjara and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions.
The journalists of the online edition of Human Rights Center – humanrights.ge also observe and report about the election violations in the polling stations. The information provided by the HRC observers and journalists is published on the facebook page of the organization and on the online newspaper www.humanrights.ge in Georgian and English languages; the information is sent to media organizations.
HRC will prepare initial assessment of the election process after the polling process is over. By now, in the polling stations, where the observers of the organization are deployed, the polling process is conducted mostly in peaceful and fair environment. At this stage, the violations and miscarriages observed by the HRC monitors cannot affect the final results of the election.
The 2020 Parliamentary Election monitoring projects of Human Rights Center include the observation of both the pre-election period and immediate observation of the polling process on the Election Day.
Stemming from the objectives of the projects, HRC shall monitor the compliance of the Georgian electoral process with international and local standards, facilitate public awareness raising with regard to the current political processes in the regions, and ensure the transparency of the election process in the selected polling stations.
HRC monitors shall attend the election process from the moment of opening the polling stations up to the end of the counting procedures and the completion of final protocols. HRC shall lodge the complaints regarding the violations of the election procedures to the district election commissions and to the Central Election Commission and where necessary to the courts. HRC observers shall follow all the proceeding with regard to the complaints up to the end of obtaining final results.
The information provided by the observers during the Election Day about the identified cases of violations shall be promptly published at www.humanrights.ge which is the online newspaper of HRC in Georgian and English languages and shall be further provided to various media outlets.
HRC shall publish a bilingual report on the violations and other findings identified by the observers during the pre-election period and immediately on the Election Day. The report shall reflect the recommendations towards the Central Election Commission, the Parliament of Georgia and relevant agencies.
The 2020 Parliamentary Elections monitoring projects are implemented by HRC with a support of the Open Society Georgia Foundation, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, and the Black Sea Foundation for Regional Cooperation.
Human Rights Center