Tbilisi, Georgia – On Sunday, Georgians went to the polls to elect mayors, heads of municipal districts and municipal councils and with a record-breaking number of candidates contesting thousands of elections, IRI’s assessment team found that Election Day voting was efficient and well-organized. Despite changes to election law and procedures for voter identification, local election officials were knowledgeable about their responsibilities and carried out their duties efficiently. Relatively few Election Day violations were reported.
These elections were notable as they saw significant changes to the election law and a greater say for voters in who governs them. In response to a greater demand for democracy, these elections allowed, for the first time, citizens outside Tbilisi to elect their mayors and heads of municipal districts. As a result of the changes to the election law, the vast majority of municipal officials are now directly elected by Georgian voters.
Other changes to the election law saw the introduction of a 50-percent threshold for mayors and gamgebelis to be elected in a first round. The threshold for parties to be elected to local councils was lowered from five to four percent of the total vote; and changes were also made to the voter identification procedures which improved the voting process.
IRI found that the campaign period was generally competitive, however, opposition parties did note cases of pressure from local officials on candidates to withdraw and interference in some campaign events organized by opposition groups. More concerning are incidents of electoral violence and the government’s delayed response. While these incidents were relatively few in number, opposition candidates must be able to freely campaign before voters for elections to be credible. Georgian officials should investigate these reports and hold those who are guilty of violence and intimidation accountable. It is IRI’s hope that the government and opposition parties will address these concerns and prevent these actions from happening in future elections.
On Election Day, IRI’s assessment team consisting of IRI staff visited 130 polling stations and witnessed the voting process in all regions of the country. Prior to the elections, the assessment team met with representatives from major political parties in Georgia, the Central Election Commission, the State Audit Office, the Ministry of Justice, as well as the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Following second round elections, IRI will publish a final report, which will provide a more in-depth analysis and recommendations to further improve the voting process.
IRI’s assessment mission was funded by USAID.
Since 1983, IRI has monitored 155 elections in more than 47 countries.