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Violations in Gori

09.01.2008
Like many districts throughout Georgia, various violations were observed in the Gori district as well. It must be pointed out that most violations were observed in the village polling stations, while a better situation could be found in the town polling stations. Both members of the opposition and authorities admitted that a large number of observers influenced the situation in the polling stations of the cities.

The Human Rights Center’s Gori office monitored elections in both the city and the surrounding villages. Remote villages were covered by both representatives of the Human Rights Center and observers from other organizations, who regularly exchanged information. The morning of the 5th, the Center noted that several polling stations were opened late. Particularly bad conditions were created for observers from the New Rights Party. Mamuka Faniashvili, a New Rights representative, stated that Gori Polling Stations # 81 and 12 were opened a half hour late.n The Human Rights Center was told at the Gori Precinct Election Commission # 32 that the late opening was caused by late commission members. In most cases, polling stations opened on time.

New Rights claims that their observers were not allowed in several polling stations based on a late arrival to the polling site. “Chairpersons of the Commission do not know the law, which places no time restrictions on observers,” Faniashvili says. “For example, when our representative arrived at the polling station at 12:00 PM, he was not let in as election staff stated they did not accept late observers. We had to call Giorgi Botkoveli, the head of the National Movement’s support team in Gori, for help. After that our observer was allowed in.”

Particularly tense was the situation in the evening when it was time to close the polling stations. In the villages, people were left largely unmarked, a violation seemingly supported by the people. Villagers considered it to be shameful to be marked and checked afterwards. The commission members did not resist their protests out of respect for their neighbors. Particularly awkward was when one man urged commission members to vote instead of his wife or child. On many occasions, similar requests were refused but largely officials did not refuse the requests to substitute votes.

The Human Rights Center received information in the evening that a large number of envelopes were pushed into the ballot box in the polling station of the village of Zerti in the Gori district. Upon arrival, the Human Rights Center found a very calm situation. 1,783 people were on the voter’s list and by seven in the evening 1,750 of them had already voted. Nobody had filed an official complaint on the fact. The only complaint to be found was filed by the United Opposition’s representative, regarding a poster supporting presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili, signed at 12:00 PM. The complaint was registered in to the Record Book and the violation was immediately eradicated. At 7:00 PM, when the Human Rights Center arrived at the site, the observer from the New Rights party filed a complaint stating that at 5:00 PM only 800 ballot papers had been issued to voters, making it highly unlikely that the number had increased to 1700 by 7:00PM. The complaint was not registered by the Commission chairperson. The Chair did, however, note that they did not agree with the complaint.

After departing from Zerti we learned that some incidents might happen in the village of Berbuki during vote counting. Counting had already begun when the Human Rights Center arrived in Berbuki. The polling station was situated on the second floor of the village board. The police would not allow us in on the ground floor even though it was possible to see people in the rooms on the ground floor. The Human Rights Center representatives then learned that additional ballot papers had been prepared to fraud the elections. After a five-minute-negotiation with the police, the electricity supply to the building was cut off. Police officers were clearly visible pulling down the electricity switch handle on the ground floor. The electricity to the village was not cut off. Women could be heard crying on the second floor, “What are you doing? Are you not ashamed? The process was so smooth during the whole day and now…” Two minutes later the power was back on, but it was soon cut off again. Many people gathered in the yard of the village board, including several journalists. “Why are you panicked? Nothing is going on…You can go up and observe yourselves if there are any violations.”

The polling station was opened and entering the room, one could see ballot papers on the floor. Tsira Merebashvili from the Labor Party and Ketevan Naniashvili from the United Opposition stated that while the electricity was cut off three men put additional ballot papers on the table. Merebashvili said that, “900 of 1500 ballots had been given out during the day…Let’s see how many papers we will have now.” Later, the opposition members present said that they could not remember clearly whether observers from the National Movement had put the extra ballot papers on the table. When counting had concluded, there were 1,304 ballots on the floor with 1,134 of them supporting Mikheil Saakashvili, 154 supporting Levan Gachechiladze and 130 votes for the Labor Party. Badri Patarkatsishvili did not receive any votes.

Two hours later, MP Teo Tlashadze arrived at the Berbuki Polling Station with two men, including Irakli Okruashvili’s uncle. Tlashadze observed a calm situation at the polling place, however she threatened that she had video of violations in the polling station and she would demand that the election results in Berbuki be declared invalid. Representatives of the National Movement disagreed with her and began to blame each other for past mistakes. The National Movement representatives reminded Tlashadze of the self-governmental elections last year when she was trying to defraud elections by 97 %.

No one has yet declared the results of the Berbuki Polling Station to be invalid. Commission members have filed complaints, and the Human Rights Center has inquired as to why the ballot papers were being counted from the floor. The Commission Chair’s response has been because not all the ballots could be fit on the table.

Opposition representatives in the area have spoken out about various election violations occurring throughout the whole day.

In the village of Variani, police detained Mamuka Mamukashvili from the New Rights party in the polling station. Law enforcement accused him of voting twice. Faniahsivli says that the police took the detainee and they do not have any further information as to where Mamukashvili is now.

MP Tlashadze gave a briefing regarding the violations discovered during the presidential elections in Shida Kartli as she is the head of the United Opposition’s Support Team in the region. She mentioned many violations in the region and admitted that a particularly large number of violations were observed in the Gori and Kareli districts.

Tlashadze claimed that in the village of Keleti in the Kareli District, the polling station was not located in the Public School as it should have been and opposition observers were unable to find the polling site at all. Later on they learned that the polling station had been opened in the house of the Deputy Chairperson of the District Election Commission and the polling had been conducted without any means of marking voters. MP Tlashadze stated that she was in possession of both photo and video proof of the violations and that they had sent them to international observers.

Davit Saganelidze, a member of the New Rights party, stated that they had observers in almost every polling station throughout Georgia. He said that the recorded violations can be divided into two groups. The first group represents technical mistakes and ignorance, while the second group is comprised of violations that were committed purposefully. 

“Commission members from our party and observers were not allowed in the Kareli District polling stations # 32 and 33. A car was standing near the village of Avnevi where opposition party members were sitting and we have information that the car was sent back,” said Saganelidze.

He added that the results of those polling stations can not be considered legal. In one case, one hundred doctors at the jail hospital were required to vote at the polling station opened in the jail hospital and were not marked in exchange for voting there.

Saganelidze said that violations were observed in the regions too. The Chairperson of Kareli Polling Station # 30, for example, agreed to allow people to vote without IDs.

“Unfortunately, there are many districts where the Commission did not have a Xerox machine. It is a very significant factor because we can receive the final report only as a Xerox copy,” said Saganelidze.

Saba Tsitsikashvili, Gori

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