Observation of the parliamentary elections in Georgia (31 October 2020)
Election observation report
| Doc. 15210
| 11 January 2021
1 On 27 May 2020 the Minister
of Foreign Affairs of Georgia invited the Parliamentary Assembly
to observe the parliamentary elections in the country. On 31 August
2020 the President of Georgia called the elections for 31 October.
2 On 25 June 2020 the Bureau of the Assembly decided to observe
these elections and constituted an ad hoc committee for this purpose
composed of 30 members (EPP/CD: 10, SOC: 9, ALDE: 5, EC/DA: 4, UEL:
2), as well as of the co-rapporteurs of the Committee on the Honouring
of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of
Europe (Monitoring Committee). On 14 September 2020 the Bureau appointed
Mr Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL) as its chairperson. On 12 October
it approved the final list of members of the ad hoc committee to
observe these elections. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic situation
and the restrictions for travelling, only nine members were able
to participate in the mission (Appendix 1).
3 In accordance with the co-operation agreement signed between
the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Commission for Democracy
through Law (Venice Commission) on 4 October 2004, a representative from
the Venice Commission was invited to join the ad hoc committee as
4 The Assembly ad hoc committee (Assembly delegation) was in
Georgia from 29 October to 2 November 2020. It operated as part
of an International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) together
with a delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization
for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE-PA), a delegation
from the Parliamentary Assembly of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
(NATO-PA) and the limited electoral observation mission of the OSCE’s
Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR
LEOM). Before leaving for Georgia, the Heads of these delegations
had a fruitful preparatory remote meeting on 15 October, at the
initiative of the Head of the Assembly delegation.
5 The programme of the delegation’s meetings in Georgia is set
out in Appendix 2.
6 The Assembly delegation concluded that Georgia’s parliamentary
elections were competitive and that, overall, fundamental freedoms
were respected. Nevertheless, pervasive allegations of pressure
on voters, blurring of the line between the ruling party and the
State and the absence of clear regulation of campaign financing
reduced public confidence in the electoral process. The elections
were conducted under a substantially revised legal framework, following
broad public consultations that brought some improvements for the
holding of democratic elections, but further efforts to address
shortcomings were needed.
7 The press release by the IEOM is set out in Appendix 3. The
statement of the Head of the Assembly delegation in the press conference
is set out in Appendix 4.
8 The Assembly delegation wishes to thank the heads and members
of the parliamentary delegation of the OSCE-PA, NATO-PA and of the
OSCE/ODIHR LEOM for their excellent co-operation within the IEOM. It also
wishes to thank the Council of Europe Office in Tbilisi for the
co-operation and support.
9 On 31 August, the President
of Georgia called parliamentary elections for 31 October. The wave
of anti-government protests, demanding the resignation of the government
and the conduct of early elections under a fully proportional system,
broke out in June 2019. Attempts to introduce a fully proportional
system failed, fuelling further protests. The 8 March 2020 Memorandum
of Understanding between the main opposition parties and the ruling
party led to the adoption of constitutional amendments and the conduct
of these elections under a revised electoral system. The amendments
introduced a larger proportional component to the electoral system
and lowered the threshold for parties to be represented in parliament.
The reduced threshold increased the apparent competitiveness of
the elections, with many new parties entering the political arena.
10 The elections were held amid ongoing political and social
tensions, and economic and public health challenges resulting from
the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In line with the Constitution, these
were the last parliamentary elections held under a mixed electoral
system; a fully proportional system will be in effect for future
11 Although the country’s first female president was elected
in 2018, women are generally under-represented in public office
in Georgia, holding 14% of seats in the outgoing parliament, five
out of 12 ministerial posts in the outgoing cabinet, and one out
of 64 mayoral positions.
12 In the last parliamentary elections, the Georgian Dream (GD)
won a constitutional majority, with 115 out of 150 seats, and the
largest opposition group, the United National Movement (UNM), 27
seats. In 2017, most UNM members of parliament (MPs) left the party
and established the European Georgia – Movement for Liberty (EG),
which became the largest opposition party in the outgoing parliament.
Besides the GD, the UNM, which led the five-party bloc Strength
in Unity, the EG, and the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (APG),
other prominent contestants included recently formed parties such
as Lelo and Strategy Aghmashenebeli (SA), as well as the Labour
Party, United Georgia – Democratic Movement and Girchi.
3 Legal framework
and electoral system
13 The Assembly delegation recalls
that Georgia signed and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights
(ETS No. 5) and its Protocol (ETS No. 9), which enshrine a number
of principles crucial for an effective and meaningful democracy,
such as the right to free elections (Article 3 of the Protocol),
freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, as well
as the prohibition of discrimination (Articles 10, 11 and 14 of
14 Under the revised mixed electoral system, of the 150 MPs,
120 are proportionally elected in a single nationwide constituency,
through closed party lists; 30 are elected in single-member constituencies.
The party threshold in the proportional contest was reduced from
5 to 1% of valid votes cast.
15 In the majoritarian contests, candidates had to obtain an
absolute majority of valid votes cast to be elected; in those constituencies
where no candidate received the required number of votes, a runoff
is to be held in three weeks between the top two candidates.
16 The boundaries of the 30 single-mandate districts were established
by recent amendments to the Constitution and Electoral Code. While
the legislation provides that, to the extent possible, boundary delimitation
should ensure the equal distribution of voters, it lacks specific
criteria for determining constituency boundaries. Of the 30 constituencies,
18 have more than 15% deviation, with the largest district comprising 3.5 times
the number of registered voters than the smallest one; seven vary
between 10 and 15%. This is against the provisions of the Venice
Commission’s Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, in particular
the article 2.2 point 15 which reads: “The maximum admissible departure
from the distribution criterion adopted depends on the individual
situation, although it should seldom exceed 10% and ever 15%, except
in really exceptional circumstances”. In addition, the merger of
the electoral districts of Marneuli and parts of Gardabani reduced
the potential for national minority representation in parliament.
17 The significantly unequal distribution of registered voters
amongst the constituencies contradicts domestic law and is at odds
with the principle of equal suffrage. Long-standing Venice Commission
and ODIHR recommendations to sufficiently regulate the boundary
delimitation process to ensure the equality of the vote and better
guarantee political representation for national minorities were
not addressed. Moreover, redefining the borders through an exclusive
political process, albeit one of consensus, is at odds with international
18 The legal framework overall provides a sound basis for holding
democratic elections. It underwent significant amendments in July
and September 2020, following a year-long, broad and inclusive consultation process.
Amendments were primarily to the 1995 Constitution, 2011 Electoral
Code and 1997 Law on Political Unions of Citizens. The timing of
the electoral system reform was at odds with the Venice Commission
Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, which states that key
aspects of electoral legislation should not be open to amendment
less than one year before an election. Outstanding recommendations
were systematically discussed in the amendment process and some
addressed, in whole or in part. While many stakeholders welcomed
the changes as offering a level of improvement, and noted general
satisfaction with the legal framework, concerns were raised about
a lack of its effective implementation and enforcement in the areas
of the election administration, campaign and campaign finance.
19 The recent legislative amendments apply to various aspects
of the electoral process. These included election administration,
party and candidate registration, campaigning and campaign finance,
media campaign and coverage, election observers, and electoral disputes
and offences, as well as the regulation of the second round period.
A number of previous Venice Commission and ODIHR recommendations
to bring the legal framework further in line with international
standards and good practice have unfortunately still not been addressed.
Outstanding recommendations mainly relate to legal provisions on
campaigning, election administration, campaign finance, media, complaints
and appeals process, and recounts and annulments. The manner in
which the amendments were incorporated into the legislation and
the repetitive and transitory nature of many of the provisions led
to a degree of incoherence and instability in the revised legal
4 Election administration
20 The elections were managed
by three levels of election administration comprising the Central
Election Commission (CEC), 73 District Election Commissions (DECs)
and 3 657 Precinct Election Commissions (PECs). Elections were not
organised in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Further, 127 special PECs
were set up for voters in quarantine. Voting abroad was held in
38 countries for the proportional component of the elections.
21 Commissions at all levels comprise 12 members: 6 non-partisan
and 6 appointed by political parties. Five non-partisan CEC members
are elected by parliament upon nomination by the president. Non-partisan members
of DECs and PECs are elected by a majority of the total number of
CEC and DEC members, respectively. Since 2017, parliamentary parties
have the right to appoint commission members in proportion to the
number of votes received in the last parliamentary elections, resulting
in dominant representation of the ruling party in these elections.
This negatively impacted the public perception of the impartiality
and independence of election commissions, required by the Election
Code, international standards and good practice.
22 Three CEC members are women, including the chairperson. Women
comprised 66% of members in DECs and over 74% in PECs; with 60%
of DEC chairpersons, and over 65% of PEC chairpersons being women.
By law, parties are free to replace their appointees at DECs
at any time except on election day, a practice which may undermine
the independence and stability of these bodiesNote
. While more than half of permanent
DEC members serve their second or third term, more than 18% of party-appointed
DEC members were replaced before election day.
24 While recent amendments aimed to increase transparency and
prevent conflicts of interest, they largely failed to enhance the
credibility of the selection process of PEC members. Short time-frames
for the submission and review of applications and the low number
of applications in most cases virtually prevented any meaningful competition.
While most PEC chairpersons are non-partisan appointees, 434 chairpersons
were elected from party-nominated members, all representing the
GD. In various DECs, the selection of non-partisan PEC members and
the election of PEC leadership resulted in a number of complaints
and some confrontations between GD and opposition affiliates. The
CEC reacted with a number of press statements denouncing the opposition
for attempts to discredit the election administration. In protest,
in many districts, UNM and EG members of DECs and PECs refused to
sign the CEC Code of Ethics for Election Administration.
25 The election administration met legal deadlines and managed
technical aspects of the elections efficiently, amid adjustments
in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The CEC held regular sessions
open to registered representatives of electoral subjects, observers
and the media. By law, some important matters fall under the purview
of the chairperson and were not discussed by the CEC as a collegial
body at open sessions, and sessions held lacked substantive discussion,
which took place at working sessions without public attendance,
limiting transparency of the election administration. Moreover,
non-partisan members carried out most essential tasks, while party
nominated commissioners, especially at the district level, had considerably less
work, and were mostly summoned for sessions. Positively, decrees,
ordinances, decisions on complaints and session minutes of the CEC
and DECs were publicly available on the CEC website, contributing
to transparency of the process. The CEC enhanced the protection
of its server infrastructure against cyberattacks and established
a unit for combating election related disinformation in media.
26 The CEC developed in consultation with civil society and party
representatives an epidemiological safety protocol for ordinary
polling stations and rules for the voting of people in quarantine.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the CEC approved the possibility
to hold its sessions online, and for PECs to create “special groups”
and operate with less than seven members on election day. The trust
in the election administration progressively decreased at the lower
levels due to controversies related to the composition of PECs and
their perceived lack of impartiality.
27 The CEC’s training centre implemented comprehensive educational
programmes for various stakeholders including election officials,
observers, female candidates, and for prospective polling staff.
Voter education was provided by the CEC through TV and radio spots,
focusing on voting procedures, Covid-19 protection measures at polling
stations and secrecy of the vote, and by DECs or in collaboration
with civil society organisations. The information was also available
in ethnic minority languages.
28 In line with a previous recommendation to enhance accessibility
of the polling stations, the CEC adapted 1 126 polling stations
(30.8%) for wheelchair users who could request a transfer of their
registration to any of such polling station within their electoral
district. However, the Assembly delegation noted that some of the adapted
polling stations were insufficiently accessible. Home-bound voting
was available for those unable to leave their homes.
5 Voter lists and
candidate and party registration
29 Citizens 18 years of age by
election day have the right to vote, unless serving a sentence for
a particularly grave crime, or declared incompetent by a court decision
and admitted to an inpatient facility. The 2017 constitutional amendments
broadened the voting rights of prisoners and were applicable for
the first time for these elections. The denial of the right to vote
for persons declared legally incompetent by a court is at odds with
30 Voter registration is passive, continuous and centralised.
The CEC compiles the voter list based on data from the Public Service
Development Agency (PSDA) and a number of other State institutions.
Voters with valid identification documents are automatically included
in the voter list according to their actual or previously registered
address. A previous recommendation to allow for a temporary transfer
of voting location was not addressed. In a continuous effort, the
PSDA pro-actively contacted persons with irregularities or omissions
in their records to enable inclusion of voters.
31 Voters had a range of options for verifying their registration
data and requesting corrections. Preliminary voter lists were posted
for public scrutiny at all PECs visited. A total of 426 voters requested
changes in their registration data. The final voter list contained
3 526 023 voters, including 65 336 registered for voting abroad. The
Assembly delegation noted that, in general, confidence in the accuracy
of voter lists was high. There were concerns related to voters residing
in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, who were not able to cross the administrative
boundary line and vote.
The 2017 constitutional amendments revised the eligibility
requirements for parliamentary candidates. In line with a previous
recommendation, the amendments abolished the State language proficiency requirement.
The eligible age was increased from 21 to 25 years of age. Moreover,
the residency requirement was increased from two to ten years in
order to stand, at odds with international standards and good practice Note
33 A mandatory gender quota for candidate lists, requiring at
least every fourth candidate to be of the opposite sex was introduced,
addressing a previous recommendation. Parties entitled to public
funding will receive an increase of 30% in funding if they include
at least 1 of each gender within every 3 candidates on their lists.
Several parties explained the low number of female majoritarian
candidates by personal life concerns. A previous recommendation
to extend the funding incentive to the parties’ nomination of women majoritarian
candidates was not addressed.
34 Candidate and party registration were generally inclusive.
To participate in the elections, parties had to register with the
CEC as electoral subjects. For these elections, the recent amendments
lowered the number of required signatures for parties from 25 000
to 5 000. More established political parties enjoyed a number of legal
advantages, such as a later registration deadline, exemption from
the obligation to collect support signatures and/or the possibility
to keep the electoral number used in previous elections. Some political
parties indicated that parties retaining their previous number had
an unfair advantage during the campaign compared to smaller and
newly registered parties.
35 The CEC registered 50 electoral subjects (48 parties and two
election blocs comprising seven parties). Out of 78 parties, five
withdrew and 19 were rejected by the CEC. The reasons for rejection
included submission of the application by an unauthorised person
and failure to meet deadlines, fix inaccuracies or submit or rectify
candidate lists. Four parties denied registration appealed the CEC
decisions in court; one case was upheld. In addition, one party’s
registration was unsuccessfully challenged in court by another party.
Two parties deregistered for failing to correct irregularities in
the candidate lists unsuccessfully appealed the decision. Of a total
6 882 candidates from party lists the CEC cancelled the registration
of 16 candidates who did not submit the required documents or who
were withdrawn by the nominating party.
36 For the majoritarian race, candidates could be nominated by
parties, election blocs or run independently if nominated by an
initiative group of at least five voters. Independent candidates,
who were not members of the outgoing parliament, had to submit supporting
signatures of at least 1% of all voters registered in their district.
There were 490 majoritarian candidates, including 11 independents;
107 were women. In total, 28 majoritarian candidates were rejected
for failing to correct irregularities within legal deadlines and
two were withdrawn by their nominating parties.
6 Election campaign,
funding and the media
The recent amendments enhanced
the campaign legal framework, in part, addressing previous recommendations.
They introduced campaign-related restrictions on election day, added
provisions to prevent the misuse of administrative resources (a
recurrent issue, as shown by the Regional Parliamentary Conference organised
by the Assembly and the Venice Commission in Tbilisi in 2019Note
criminalised coercion and intimidation of voters, and strengthened
the offence of vote-buying.
However, shortcomings in the campaign framework remain, including
outstanding Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption
(GRECO) and ODIHR recommendations to take significant measures to prevent
the misuse of administrative resourcesNote
39 The campaign officially began on 1 September, 60 days prior
to election day. While political activities were not restricted
by the Covid-19 regulations, many parties reported reducing public
campaign activities due to health-related concerns. Most campaigning
was conducted through billboards, posters, door-to-door canvassing,
and some small-scale rallies. Few large public rallies were held,
and some were heavily criticised for encouraging large gatherings
during a pandemic. The campaign was vibrant in media and social
networks, with most contestants turning to Facebook to connect with
voters. Overall, limited cases of hate speech and disinformation
on Facebook were observed. Public officials, including the prime
minister and the mayor of Tbilisi, used their social media profiles
for campaign purposes.
40 The campaign was largely competitive with a range of contestants
representing different views. It focused on personalities, on discussing
the economic situation and on the government’s response to Covid-19.
It was visually dominated by the GD, the UNM, EG, Lelo, APG and
SA were also prominent. Although a number of parties developed detailed
election platforms, these were rarely presented to voters and therefore did
not play a major role for voters’ decisions.
41 Women were usually under-represented at campaign events and
gender issues were almost entirely absent from the campaign.
42 Fundamental freedoms were generally respected, and contestants
were able to campaign freely. However, isolated politically motivated
violent incidents took place. Negative campaigning was frequent
and at times took a confrontational tone. Many opposition parties
alleged their supporters and staff were subject to pressure, often
by local authorities and the State Security Service.
43 The IEOM received reports of pressure on local public employees,
teachers, and private businesses to participate in GD campaign events
or confirm their support. It also heard allegations of withdrawing
State assistance in case of support to the opposition. Minor damage
to campaign materials was widespread; there were also reports of
damage of campaign offices and of cases of obstruction from placing
campaign materials. The Code of Conduct for Political Parties, a
declaration of commitments facilitated by the CEC, was signed by 40
44 The line between the ruling party and the State was often
blurred. GD representatives made a number of announcements during
the campaign, which contributed to this impression, and was widely
perceived as vote-buying. Although not legally prohibited, campaigning
by mayors on behalf of candidates of the ruling party was frequently
observed. Various complaints of campaign-related misconduct were
lodged resulting in some corrective or disciplinary actions.
45 While the Constitution prescribes the separation of church
and State and the Election Code forbids campaigning by religious
organisations, the ruling party invoked religious imagery in its
appeal to voters in some of its campaign advertising, and some clergy
of the Georgian Orthodox Church were observed in attendance at campaign
46 The recent amendments to the campaign finance legal framework
addressed some previous recommendations put forward by GRECO and
the ODIHR, bringing it more in line with international good practice.
These include further development of a uniform and consistent framework,
the extension of campaign finance regulations to independent candidates,
a legal requirement for publication of campaign finance reports, significant
increases in fines for reporting violations, and the introduction
of sanctions for third-party spending. Nevertheless, remaining shortcomings
and limited enforcement diminish transparency and effectiveness
of the campaign finance framework.
The Assembly delegation recalls the report on the observation
of the last presidential election in GeorgiaNote
, where it was
already stated that “the system of campaign expenditure was surprisingly
generous, with money coming from the State budget and private donations
– and this in a country with a high level of poverty”. It notes
that this situation did not change much.
48 Eligible parties receive annual public funding, while majoritarian
candidates not nominated by these parties do not have a similar
opportunity to access such public funds. Electoral subjects that
reach a 5% threshold in these elections will be reimbursed for campaign
expenditures up to GEL 1 million, proportionate to votes received.
Unauthorised donors and donation limits are established by law and
a ban on donations of untraceable origin was introduced by the recent
amendments. Parties and independent majoritarian candidates are
subject to an annual and campaign spending limit, respectively.
The overall framework for public funding of parties and election
campaigns, including publicly subsidised paid political advertisements, which
disproportionately favours a select few parties, and the high spending
limits, significantly contributed to an uneven playing field.
49 In this regard, on 1 November, during the final press conference,
the Head of the Assembly delegation declared: “While acknowledging
that these parliamentary elections were generally free, we are concerned
over the lack of clear rules on abundant campaign spending, which
negatively affects the fairness of the elections”.
50 The effectiveness of the State Audit Office (SAO), a body
mandated to exercise party and campaign finance oversight, was challenged
by its limited mandate and authority to investigate and sanction
campaign finance infringements on a timely basis, leaving long-standing
GRECO and ODIHR recommendations unaddressed. While the SAO’s budget
has been considerably enlarged in recent years, the significant
increase in the number of parties participating in these elections
has tested its capacity to provide effective supervision. According
to the SAO, its oversight activities are generally limited to identifying
easily observable violations, as its powers do not allow for investigations
into potentially serious and systemic abuses in campaign finance.
The lack of expedited deadlines for the SAO to address campaign
finance violations further weakened the effectiveness of the oversight
51 Most contestants reported donations within five days of receipt
and submitted periodic campaign finance reports. The SAO did not
take action to impose fines for late filing of reports; and many
were not submitted in the required template, or properly completed.
The SAO uploaded the donations and reports on its website, as required
by law. Inquiries into more than 1 000 questionable donations were
launched by the SAO; requiring court permission to obtain donors’
financial documents. Prior to election day, most investigations
were still ongoing. Based on complaints and examination of the first
interim reports, the SAO requested to impose fines in 10 cases;
the court issued remarks, warnings and two fines. While the SAO
is not required to publish its interim monitoring findings on a
timely basis, it released a report on 23 October, on its own initiative.
52 Most political actors and civil society groups voiced concerns
that the campaign finance reports did not reflect the true extent
of campaign donations and spending. Most reported individual donations
were much lower than the maximum GEL 60 000, but the ruling party
received significantly more maximum individual donations than any
other party. The campaign finance reports of some major parties
at times did not accurately report the true expenses incurred. For
example, despite acknowledging their significant campaign staff,
EG, GD and UNM reported paying few salaries to campaign staff or
allowances to volunteers. Significant spending for online advertising
was incurred, although in some cases, the expenses declared appeared
to be lower.
The diverse and pluralistic media environment was polarised
along political lines and business interests (as already mentioned
in previous Assembly documents of the Monitoring CommitteeNote
Television served as the main source of information for the overwhelming
majority of the population. The limited advertising market, which
further declined during the Covid-19 pandemic, appeared unable to
support the increasingly large number of media outlets, as most
private broadcasters reported operating at a financial loss. This
challenges the sustainability of the media, and thus increases their
dependence on the owners.
54 The broadcast market realigned in 2019, after the transfer
of ownership of the most watched opposition television channel Rustavi
2. Its former managers subsequently established Mtavari Arkhi and
Formula channels, employing the majority of the Rustavi 2 journalists.
The state-funded Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) annual budget
is tied to the State’s GDP figure and is comparable to the advertisement
revenues of all TV channels combined. The appointment of a director
of Batumi-based public Adjara TV management resulted in a number
of managers and journalists leaving Adjara TV.
55 All monitored private broadcasters were visibly partisan.
Furthermore, in the absence of genuine investigative programmes
and analytical reporting, coverage of the campaign was at times
limited to superficial reporting of daily campaign activities and
mutual accusations between main political parties. While there were only
a few debates among representatives of major political parties,
numerous talk shows served as a platform for contestants to present
their views and opinions and sharply criticise their opponents.
56 In line with the Election Code, extensive free airtime was
provided on public and private national TV stations to the 18 political
parties that qualified for public funding. Based on their previous
local election results, eight political parties also received State
funding exclusively for paid political advertisements. Political
parties that were not entitled to public funding received substantially
less free airtime and only on the public media, resulting in an
uneven playing field. At their own initiative, the GPB and Adjara
TV decided to provide five and six minutes of free time respectively
to each party or bloc participating in the elections as an interview
within their main newscasts.
57 Broadcasters were not liable for the content of political
advertisements but only for the compliance with the technical requirements.
While the law does not require content verification of political
ads, some broadcasters attempted to do so but the process lacked
uniformity. Some broadcasters only verified the compliance with
technical requirements, others restricted the distribution of the
advertisements, or requested their modification based on content.
On 1 October, the broadcast media regulatory body, the Communications Commission
(CC), requested the court to fine Pirveli and Formula TV stations
for violating the requirements for airing political advertisements;
the sanctions were approved by the Tbilisi City Court.
58 Broadcasters that covered the elections were legally obliged
to organise debates inviting all political parties qualified for
public funding. The GPB, in addition to four debates scheduled for
such parties, organised four more debates for other electoral subjects.
The GD reduced its participation in the debates to a handful of programmes,
which may have limited the opportunity for voters to see major contestants
59 Three private broadcasters, Mtavari Arkhi, Pirveli and Formula,
displayed a clear bias against the ruling party and the government
by allocating them respectively between 29 and 35 and 11 and 16%
of largely negative prime-time news coverage. By contrast, Imedi
television provided 45 and 24% of overwhelmingly positive and neutral
coverage to the GD and the government, respectively, whereas the
UNM-led coalition and EG received about 14 and 2% of mostly negative
coverage. Other contestants received a combined total of 3%. The
news coverage of Rustavi 2 of all major contestants was mainly neutral;
the broadcaster gave extensive coverage, some 27% and 15% to GD
and the government respectively, while the UNM-led coalition, EG
and Lelo received some 14, 9 and 6% of coverage. Adjara TV focused
mainly on local events and offered only limited coverage of the
campaign; 18% of coverage was provided to the Adjaran local government.
While both public TV stations GPB and Adjara TV provided the main
contestants comparable amounts of largely neutral coverage, activities
of the government were covered broadly.
7 Complaints and
The recent legislative amendments
did not address long-standing Venice Commission and ODIHR recommendations
to simplify the electoral dispute resolution process and broaden
the rules on legal standingNote
. While registered
contestants and accredited observer groups have the right to file
complaints against decisions of election commissions and violations
of election legislation, voters do not have broad standing to protect
their rights in an electoral process, contrary to international
standards and obligations. Many IEOM interlocutors expressed a lack
of trust in the election commissions, courts, and law enforcement
bodies to impartially and effectively handle election-related complaints.
61 The one and two-day deadlines for filing and adjudication
of complaints against decisions of election commissions are unduly
short, according to international good practice, unnecessarily hindering
the preparation, investigation, and adjudication of complaints.
Positively, the recent amendments reduced the lengthy deadlines
for election commissions to submit administrative offence protocols
to the courts and for their adjudication. While this addressed a
previous recommendation for a more expeditious process to handle violations
of election legislation, the revised time-frames of up to 10 days
62 Many decisions on complaints fall under the powers of the
CEC/DEC chairs and their deputies rather than the election commissions,
weakening their status as collegial bodies and limiting transparency
in the handling of complaints. Virtually all complaints lodged with
the commissions were handled by the CEC/DEC chair, without review
in open sessions. Furthermore, the CEC chair’s decisions not to
seek sanctions for alleged electoral offences are not subject to
appeal, which limits the right to an effective remedy, at odds with international
63 The online database maintained by the CEC enhanced transparency
of the complaint resolution process. Some 300 complaints were submitted
to the CEC/DECs and 13 cases to courts, the vast majority was lodged
by opposition parties/affiliates or observer groups. Most disputes
related to appointments of DEC/PEC members, hindrance of stakeholders’
rights at DEC/PEC sessions, and procedural irregularities at PECs,
as well as misuse of administrative resources, public servants campaigning
during work hours, and campaigning by unauthorised persons in favour
of the ruling party. The vast majority of complaints to CEC/DECs
were denied consideration on technical grounds or dismissed on merits,
many without adequate investigation or based on questionable interpretation
of the law, undermining the right to effective legal remedy. Some
court decisions exposed ambiguities in the legislation that led
to inconsistent interpretations.
64 Major opposition parties and some civil society groups boycotted
sessions of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Free and Fair Elections
(IATF) due to their perceptions of political bias and ineffectiveness.
Lack of a clear mandate and limited participation by external actors
raised questions about the IATF’s added value to ensuring the integrity
of the electoral process and building stakeholder trust. The Prosecutor’s
Office received 35 vote-buying reports, with three investigation
launched. The Ministry of Interior launched 78 investigations concerning
election-related violence and property damage, and 16 persons were
charged for election-related violence in 12 incidents.
8 Citizen and international
65 The election legislation provides
for observation by national and international observers, as well
as by representatives of contestants. The Election Code contains
detailed provisions on the rights and responsibilities of observers
and grants them unhindered access to all stages of the electoral
process. In an inclusive procedure the CEC registered 132 citizen
observer organisations with over 47 000 observers, 48 international
organisations and 118 local media with some 6 000 journalists. Several
citizen observer organisations conducted long-term observation,
and deployed short-term observers on election day, contributing
to overall transparency of the process.
9 Election day
66 The IEOM did not observe election
day proceedings in a systematic or comprehensive manner, and mission
members visited a limited number of polling stations in 28 of the
67 On polling day, the Assembly delegation split into five teams
which observed the elections in Tbilisi and the surrounding area,
as well as in Marneuli, Gori and Rustavi.
68 In the polling stations visited, the voting process was transparent,
and procedures were mostly followed; but occasionally voters’ identity
was verified without removing face masks. Preventive measures against Covid-19
were in place but not followed consistently in most polling stations
visited; social distancing was rarely respected or possible both
outside and inside polling stations.
69 Women constituted an overwhelming majority of commission members
at the polling stations visited.
70 The secrecy of the vote inside the voting booth was mostly
respected; however, one or more permanent video recordings or photographing
by political parties of voters casting their ballots contributed
to a potentially intimidating environment in a large number of observed
polling stations (although these recording were formally allowed).
One Assembly team observed cases of apparently unnecessary assistance
offered to voters inside the polling booths. The excessive number
of party representatives and citizen observers contributed to serious and
potentially dangerous overcrowding of most visited polling locations.
Apart from the well-established citizen observer groups, a number
of new observer organisations, apparently operating as party proxies,
mainly for the ruling party, were present. In some instances, these
observers were seen as interfering with the work of PEC members
or actively determining who should enter the voting premises. Intimidating
presence of party co-ordinators and activists (some of them presenting
themselves as “agitators”), often tracking voters, was observed
outside most polling stations visited. Some incidents of violence
were reported, including a clash between several dozen GD and UNM
activists near the PEC in the Gldani district of Tbilisi, resulting
in six arrests.
71 On election day, the Ministry of Interior launched criminal
investigations into 12 violent incidents. In addition, nine persons
were arrested for election-related hooliganism. The Prosecutor’s
Office launched one investigation into vote-buying filed on election
day. The CEC has uploaded on its database some 380 complaints lodged
with DECs, mostly relating to distribution of roles during opening,
hindering the observer’s rights, violation of the secrecy of the
vote and interference in the PEC work by party representatives.
72 The limited number of counts observed were generally assessed
as transparent, but often slow and lengthy; procedures were largely
followed with some minor inconsistencies. There were several instances
of party-linked observers interfering with the work of the polling
staff. The initial stages of district tabulation, when observed,
were well-organised and transparent.
73 On 3 December the CEC announced the results of the elections.
74 The first round for proportional seats took place on 31 October,
followed by a second round for majoritarian seats on 21 November.
75 The total number of voters equalled 3 511 853. 1 992 891 voters
participated in the elections by the proportional electoral system.
76 The number of mandates according to the elections held by
the proportional electoral system are as follows:
Political Party (Bloc)
Number of received votes
Bokeria – European Georgia – Movement for Liberty’’
Bloc ‘’United National
Movement – United Opposition ‘’Strength Is in Unity’’
Irma Inashvili – Alliance of Patriots of Georgia’’
– Labour Party of Georgia’’
‘’Aleko Elisashvili –
Bloc ‘’Giorgi Vashadze
– Strategy Aghmashenebeli’’
Georgian Dream – Democratic
''Lelo – Mamuka Khazaradze’’
77 The majoritarian part of the
elections was held on 21 November 2020. All parties except for ‘’Georgian Dream
– Democratic Georgia’’ called voters not to participate in this
second round. Candidates nominated by ‘’Georgian Dream – Democratic
Georgia’’ were elected in all 30 majoritarian electoral districts.
78 After the elections, all parties except for ‘’Georgian Dream
– Democratic Georgia’’ stated that they would not take their seats
in the new parliament. The new parliament was installed on 11 December.
However, the first sitting was held in parallel with the opposition
boycott. Five opposition parties (UNM, European Georgia, Strategy
Aghmashenebeli, Labour Party, and Lelo for Georgia) signed a joint
document to renounce to the MP mandates they had secured and to
reject parliamentary work. Representatives of the Republican Party,
Girchi, Citizens and Patriots’ Alliance did not attend the process.
79 The Assembly Bureau decided to send a post electoral mission
to Georgia, in the light of what happened after elections day. Unfortunately,
the mission first had to be first postponed and then cancelled due
to new Covid restrictions put in place by the Georgian authorities.
10 Conclusions and recommendations
80 The Assembly election observation
delegation concluded that Georgia’s parliamentary elections were competitive
and, overall, fundamental freedoms were respected. Nevertheless,
pervasive allegations of pressure on voters, blurring of the line
between the ruling party and the State and the absence of clear regulation
of campaign financing, reduced public confidence in some aspects
of the process. The elections were conducted under a substantially
revised legal framework, following broad public consultations that brought
some improvements for the holding of democratic elections, but further
efforts to address shortcomings were needed.
81 The election administration met legal deadlines and managed
technical aspects of the elections efficiently, amid adjustments
in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the Assembly delegation
noted that the dominant representation of the ruling party in the
election administration, especially at lower levels, negatively
impacted the public perception of the impartiality and independence
of election commissions.
82 The diverse and pluralistic media environment was polarised
along political lines and business interests. The Assembly delegation
noted that all monitored private broadcasters were visibly partisan.
Broadcast media were required to allocate extensive free airtime
and invite to debates only parties eligible for public funding. Political
parties not entitled to public funding received substantially less
free airtime and only in public media, disadvantaging them. Furthermore,
in the absence of policy discussion, genuine investigative programmes
and analytical reporting, and with only a few debates between main
political alternatives, there was limited opportunity for voters
to make an informed choice.
The Assembly delegation, while acknowledging that these parliamentary
elections were generally free, expressed concern over the lack of
clear rules on abundant campaign spending, which negatively affected
the fairness of the elections. It recalls that this issue had already
been raised in the report on the observation of the last presidential
election in the country, in 2018Note
. While noting
that the recent amendments to the campaign finance legal framework
addressed some previous recommendations, the Assembly delegation
urges Georgia to address, as soon as possible, the remaining shortcomings,
with a view to improve the laws and regulations related to the oversight
of campaign financing.
84 The Assembly delegation asks the Georgian authorities to further
co-operate with the Assembly and with the Venice Commission, with
a view to address all the problems identified during these parliamentary
Appendix 1 – Composition of the ad hoc committee
Based on the proposals by the political groups
of the Assembly, the ad hoc committee was composed as follows:
Chairperson: Mr Tiny
Group of the European People’s Party (EPP/CD)
- Mr Reinhold LOPATKA,
Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group
- Ms Petra BAYR, Austria
- Mr Roberto RAMPI, Italy
- Ms Jette CHRISTENSEN, Norway
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for
- Mr Hovhannes IGITYAN,
European Conservatives Group and Democratic
- Mr Alberto RIBOLLA,
- Mr Ulrich OEHME, Germany
Group of the Unified European Left (UEL)
- Mr Georgios KATROUGKALOS,
- Mr Tiny KOX, Netherlands
- Mr Gaël MARTIN-MICALLEF,
Legal advisor, Venice Commission
- Mr Bogdan TORCĂTORIU,
Administrative Officer, Election Observation and Interparliamentary
- Mr Franck DAESCHLER, Principal Administrative Assistant
- Ms Danièle GASTL, Assistant
Appendix 2 – Program of the meetings of
the International Election Observation Mission
(27 October – 1 November 2020)
Thursday, 29 October
09:00 – 09:50 Internal meeting of the PACE ad hoc
Opening of the meeting by Mr Tiny Kox, Head of Delegation
Presentation by Ms Natalia Voutova, Head of the Council of
Europe Office, Tbilisi
Presentation by Mr Gael Martin-Micallef, Venice Commission
Logistical issues: Secretariat
10:00 – 10:15 Welcome addresses
Mr. Tiny Kox, Head of Delegation of the PACE
Ms. Pia Kauma, Head of Delegation of the OSCE PA
Mr. Osman Bak, Head of Delegation of NATO PA
10:15 – 11:15 Briefing by the
ODIHR Election Observation Mission – Part I
- Welcome by Ambassador Jillian
Stirk, Head of ODIHR LEOM
- Political Background, Aly Verjee, Political Analyst
- Media Landscape and the Campaign, Egor Tilpunov, Media
11:30 – 12:45 Briefing by the
ODIHR Election Observation Mission – Part II
- Legal Framework, Complaints
and Appeals, Marla Morry, Legal Analyst
- Election Administration and Voter Registration, Peter
Michalik, Election Analyst
14:00 – 15:30 Election Law and
Administration panel discussion
- Tamar Zhvania, Chairperson, Central Election Commission
- Elene Nizharadze, Executive Director, International Society
for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
- Sulkhan Saladze, Chairperson, Georgian Young Lawyers Association
15:45 – 17:15 Campaign and Media
Makharadze, Head of the Audiovisual Media Services Regulation Department, Communications
- Tinatin Berdzenishvili, Director General, Georgian Public
- Nina Nakashidze, Deputy Head, Mtavari Arkhi TV
- Eka Gigauri, Executive Director, Transparency International
- Mariam Gogosashvili, Executive Director, Georgian Charter
of Journalistic Ethics
- Keti Maisuradze, Country Director, International Foundation
for Electoral System (IFES)
17:15 Meeting with drivers and interpreters (for PACE delegation)
Friday, 30 October
09:00 – 12.00 Meetings
with Political Party Representatives
(one by one, 25 min blocks)
9:00 – 9:25 Giorgi Vashadze, Chairperson, Strategy Aghmashenebeli
9:25 – 9:50 Salome Samadashvili, United National Movement
9:50 – 10:15 Davit Bakradze, Chairperson, European Georgia
10:30 – 10:55 Shalva Natelashvili, Chairperson Labour Party
10:55 – 11:20 Irma Inashvili (1st on
the list; and Nika Ramishvili) Alliance of Patriots of Georgia
11:20 – 11:45 Ana Natsvlishvili, Lelo for Georgia / *Webex
11:45 – 12:10 Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia:
Irakli Kobakhidze, Executive Secretary and Head of Elections
Headquarters; Kakha Kutchava, International Secretary; Mariam
12:25 – 13:10 Briefing by the
ODIHR Election Observation Mission – Part III
- Election Day Procedures, Peter
Michalik, Election Analyst
- Security, Laszlo Belagyi, Security Expert
13:10 – 13:30 Regional Briefing
by ODIHR EOM Long-Term Observers for teams deployed in Tbilisi /
*Webex, and handing out of Briefing packs
Saturday, 31 October
7:30 Observation of the opening of polling stations
08:00-20:00 Observation of the elections
20:00- Observation of the closing of the polling stations,
counting and presentation of results
Sunday, 1st November
08:00-09:00 Meeting of the PACE ad hoc committee
Debriefing by the members of the ad hoc committee on the
15h00 Joint press conference
Departure of the members of the delegation
Appendix 3 – Press release of the International
Election Observation Mission
Fundamental freedoms respected in competitive
Georgian elections, but allegations of pressure and blurring of
line between party and State reduced confidence, international observers
Strasbourg, 01.11.2020 – Georgia’s parliamentary elections
were competitive and, overall, fundamental freedoms were respected.
Nevertheless, pervasive allegations of pressure on voters and blurring
of the line between the ruling party and the State reduced public
confidence in some aspects of the process, international observers
said in a statement today. The elections were conducted under a
substantially revised legal framework, following broad public consultations
that brought some improvements for the holding of democratic elections,
but further efforts to address shortcomings are needed, the statement
The observers concluded that the technical aspects of the
elections were managed efficiently, despite challenges posed by
the Covid-19 pandemic, but the dominance of the ruling party in
the election commissions negatively affected the perception of their
impartiality and independence, especially at the lower levels.
“I am very pleased that we were
able to contribute to the observation of these very important and
challenging elections for Georgia. I commend the extra efforts that
inevitably had to be made in preparations, and also commend all
the people who courageously decided to go out and vote, notwithstanding
the immense challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Elona
Gjebrea Hoxha, OSCE Special Co-ordinator and leader of the short-term
OSCE election mission. “While there have been welcome improvements
in election-related laws and regulations, there remains work to
be done to provide a more solid base for democratic elections.”
Osman Askin Bak, head of the delegation from the NATO Parliamentary
Assembly, said: “This was an important election for Georgia’s transition
to a parliamentary system of government. The electoral framework was
significantly revised through an inclusive consultation process.
Our joint statement shows, however, that there were some shortcomings
in the organisation of the campaign, which created a somewhat uneven
playing field and affected public confidence in parts of the process.
These must be addressed. Nevertheless, overall, the Georgian people
expressed their will at the polls and, once again, demonstrated
their strong commitment to democracy. It was particularly impressive
to see so many of them coming to vote yesterday despite the challenges
posed by the pandemic.”
In the limited number of polling stations visited, procedures
were mostly followed. Preventive measures against Covid-19 were
largely in place, but social distancing was rarely respected or
possible. The presence of party co-ordinators and activists outside
of many polling stations had an Intimidating character.
"I commend the many women in polling
stations across the country who were actively working to ensure
a smooth process on election day,” said Pia Kauma, head of the delegation
from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. “I also welcome steps taken
to increase women’s representation in the electoral contest, and
I hope this will be reflected in the incoming parliament and government.”
The diverse and pluralistic media environment was polarised
along political lines and by business interests, and all monitored
private broadcasters were visibly partisan. In the absence of policy
discussion and analytical reporting, and with only a few debates
between main political alternatives, there was limited opportunity
for voters to make an informed choice, the observers said.
“I pay tribute to all the brave
Georgian voters who cast their votes in yesterday’s elections, despite
the risk Covid might cause to them when visiting a polling station,”
said Tiny Kox, head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe. “While acknowledging that these parliamentary
elections were generally free, we are concerned over the lack of
clear rules on abundant campaign spending, which negatively affects
the fairness of the elections. We therefore urge Georgia to meet,
as soon as possible, our longstanding recommendations to improve
the laws and regulations related to the oversight of campaign financing.”
The legal framework, overall, provides a sound basis for democratic
elections. While many recent amendments were welcomed as bringing
some improvement, there were concerns about a lack of effective
implementation and enforcement in the areas of election administration,
the campaign and campaign finance. The observers also noted that
aspects of the legislation and certain campaign practices advantaged
more established political parties, to the detriment of newer and
smaller ones. The overall framework for campaign financing, including high
spending limits, also benefitted more established parties, the statement
“The competitive nature of yesterday’s
elections was, unfortunately, undermined by the pervasive allegations we
heard of the intimidation of voters, both in the lead up to and
on election day, and of the blurring of the line between state and
party during the campaign,” said Jillian Stirk, head of the ODIHR
limited election observation mission. “At the same time, it is important
to note the vibrant role played by civil society, in a space where fundamental
freedoms, including the freedom of expression, were generally respected.”
Appendix 4 – Statement of the Head of the
PACE delegation at the press conference
Statement by Mr Tiny Kox (NL), Chair PACE-delegation:
May I start by thanking the Georgian Parliament for inviting
us to observe these elections, which allows us to have a good look
into the developments of your democratic processes. We consider
it an honour to do this work.
May I then pay tribute to all the brave Georgian voters who
casted their vote in yesterday’s elections, in spite of the risk
Covid might cause to those visiting a polling station. The fact
that your country was able to organise elections in these circumstances
shows that you are not afraid of democracy. By holding these elections Georgia
shows to the other 46 Council of Europe member States that elections
are possible, also in times of this pandemic which is hitting all
our societies and citizens harshly. Organising elections now shows
you realise that in times of crisis you cannot afford less democracy,
You even need more democracy to find the best possible answers.
While acknowledging that these parliamentary elections were
generally free, we from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe do pity that your country still lacks clear rules on abundant
and unlimited campaign spending. This negatively affects the fairness
of the elections. So much money spent, in an overall rather poor
country, is not a good signal to your citizens. We therefore urge
Georgian politicians and the new Georgian Parliament to meet as
soon as possible our persisting recommendations to improve the legal framework
regarding oversight of campaigns. I am sure you are able to do it.
What is needed is political will to do so!
Georgia is a member State of the Council of Europe and has
taken upon itself clear commitments to protect and promote the rule
of law, human rights and democracy. I hope that our findings and
recommendations will be considered by all political parties as well-meant
support to Georgia’s democracy.
Our preliminary findings and recommendations are already in
today’s report of the International Election Observation Mission. I
will specify them in a final report I will present later this year
to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Of course,
we will share them with the Georgian delegation to our Assembly. Therefore,
I kindly request the new Parliament to nominate as soon as possible
a new delegation to our Assembly, so that we continue our parliamentary
dialogue in our Assembly.
Once again, it was an honour to observe your elections!