Central Election Commission (CEC) has to date acted in “a transparent and inclusive manner,” according to the first interim report by international election observation mission released on May 7.
The interim report by OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which has deployed its observation mission in April, covers the period between April 16 and May 3.
On CEC, which is a main body in charge of administering elections, the report says that it regularly informs observers about its upcoming sessions in time. “However, the CEC also holds informal meetings to which observers are usually not invited,” according to the report.
It also says that the political environment remains “polarized” and trust in the authorities on the part of non-parliamentary opposition is low.
“However, several opposition parties have, in their contacts with the OSCE/ODIHR EOM, expressed cautious satisfaction with the CEC chairperson for his perceived openness and transparency,” the report reads.
It says that despite “significant shortcomings”, election code “is generally conducive to holding democratic elections.
The report notes that in their election campaigning political parties make major focus on Tbilisi. Ruling National Movement party and Christian-Democratic Movement, a leading party in the parliamentary minority, are campaigning more actively than others outside the capital, according to the report.
On media the report says that it remains “divided along political line.”
“Only a few outlets succeed in pursuing a more independent editorial policy. International and domestic media organizations have accused government officials and opposition politicians of influencing editorial and programming policies through personal connections with media executives and owners,” the report says.
The OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission launched its quantitative and qualitative monitoring of the campaign coverage by eight television channels (public TV’s First and Second Channels; Rustavi 2 TV; Imedi TV; Kavkasia TV; Maestro TV; Real TV and Adjara TV) and two daily newspapers, Rezonansi and 24 Saati.
The report notes that number of political parties complained about very high cost of paid political advertising on nationwide TV stations.
Tbilisi mayoral candidates are intensively using airtime for free-of-charge spots allocated in accordance to the law.
In the reporting period only three candidates had bought airtime – Gigi Ugulava on two nationwide TV stations, Rustavi 2 and Imedi, where political ad prices are about ten times expensive than usual commercials; Irakli Alasania, who bought airtime on Kavkasia TV and ex-PM Zurab Nogaideli’s Movement for Fair Georgia, part of National Council, which has nominated Zviad Dzidziguri for Tbilisi mayor, on Kavkasia and Maestro stations. These two latter TV stations are broadcasting in the capital city and prices for political ad there are significantly lower than on nationwide broadcasters.
The report says that public broadcaster, as well as national and regional private broadcasters “have been airing regular talk shows and debates among candidates and political parties, providing candidates with an important forum for an exchange of views.”