OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s pre-election observation mission expressed concerns over “questionable decisions” made by the State Audit Office, including on imposing “disproportionate” and “harsh” penalties “apparently being applied in a selective manner.”
Four-member mission, made up of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s leadership, also expressed concerns over judiciary system and expressed hope that in final weeks of the campaign ahead of the October 1 parliamentary elections the Georgian authorities would create “a level playing field for all parties”.
The leadership of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly concluded on August 22 a three-day visit to Georgia aimed at assessing the country’s pre-election climate.
The mission was led by former foreign minister of Croatia Tonino Picula and also included OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s President Riccardo Migliori; OSCE PA Secretary General Spencer Oliver and director of OSCE PA presidential administration Roberto Montella.
During the visit the mission met with representatives of the ruling party; opposition; election administration, as well as media and civil society representatives and members of the international community in Tbilisi.
“The upcoming Parliamentary elections are of great importance for the future of democracy in Georgia,” said Tonino Picula, who is also head of the OSCE short-term observation mission for the October 1 election. “We… welcome obvious pre-election efforts that aimed to ensure accuracy of the voters’ list, provide transparency in campaign finance, and expand media accessibility throughout the country.”
“There are several issues that concern us and that we will continue to watch closely,” he said in a statement. “We have seen a growing political polarization in the country.”
“We are particularly concerned by the practice of certain law enforcement institutions in Georgia. In our view, the State Audit Office is using broad discretionary authority to investigate the legality of individual or party spending and making questionable decisions and imposing harsh penalties without clear or transparent guidelines. The fines levied are disproportionate and apparently being applied in a selective manner mainly targeting one political subject.”
“A fair and independent judiciary system is also fundamental to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections,” he continued. “After this visit, we have concerns as to the possibility of receiving proper legal remedy from the court system.”
“The success of these elections depends also on a responsible opposition, which has the legal right to promote its goals while respecting the rules of the campaign. All parties should respect and accept the election results,” Picula said.
OSCE PA President Riccardo Migliori said: “In the final weeks of this campaign I hope the Georgian authorities commit to a credible election and help create a level playing field for all parties that includes access to media and the protection of journalists whose work is essential for voters to make a free and informed choice on election day.”
“There is little part of Leninism in this electoral campaign. Leninism is not to present programs, but trying to destroy the enemies,” Migliori told journalists.