A Statement of Georgian National Platform of the EAP Civil Society Forum

19 Sep, 2012


Issued during the conference ‘Parliamentary elections and the prospects of Georgia’s integration into the European Union’ held on 15 September, 2012

The Parliamentary elections scheduled for October 1 present the key challenge for the statehood and democratic development of Georgia.  Securing a free and fair election environment and holding high quality elections will largely determine further developments in the process of Georgia’s integration into the European Union.

It is the state that secures the environment for holding free elections and therefore a share of responsibility imposed on the government is big.  On the other hand, all participants of the election process should be aware of their own responsibility and respect rule of law principles as well as civilized and democratic practices.

The National Platform calls upon all parties involved in the election process to respond adequately to the problems listed below within the short time left before the elections in order to secure the fair and competitive environment for the free expression of will by Georgian citizens.

Increasing polarization of election environment and tensions

The polarization and tensions are on the rise in the run-up to the elections, which gets in the way of the sound and competitive election process, runs counter to competition rules and hinders the development of democratic political culture; the tensions are increasing, which in turn, raises the risk of confrontation between different groups of the public.

One of the sources of the polarization and tensions is the use of hate speech, offensive words and groundless accusations, starkly negative PR and in some cases even physical violence.  Such “rules of the game” are unacceptable for the country, which claims to have integration with EU, therefore introduction of democratic values and democratic standards, as its prime goal.

Therefore, the Georgian National Platform calls upon:

  • The government of Georgia and respective agencies, as the entities responsible for holding free and fair elections – to take responsibility for the formation of a respective election environment so that not to fuel tensions and prevent unfair and selective treatment of political subjects;
  • Political subjects – to be aware of their share of responsibility, refrain from discrediting and provoking competitors and adhere to the rules of fair competition to avoid existing risks;
  • Mass media – Taking into consideration their important role in shaping public opinion, not to contribute to further polarization and follow the norms of journalistic ethics and professionalism while reporting on election processes.

Issues relating to media environment

A pluralistic media environment is paramount for free and fair elections, independence of voters’ will and democratic processes.  Access to diverse sources of information acquires critical importance in the run-up to the elections, like it does on the election day and in the period following the elections in terms of building confidence in democratic election processes.


Extension of the term of must carry/must offer obligations

In this respect, enactment of the must carry/must offer obligations through legislative amendments is a step made forward.  However, the term of the obligations is due on the election day, which means the public interest will not be satisfied as the election process and high interest it draws from the public does not end on that day.  Furthermore, the public interest to a diverse media environment is not confined to the election process alone.  Pluralistic media, given its importance and the current situation in Georgia, draws so much public interest that issuing a special regulation by the state is a justified move.

Therefore, the national platform calls upon:

  • The President of Georgia – to summon Parliament for an extraordinary meeting and raise the question of the extension of the term of so-called must-carry/must-offer obligations in the country;
  • Parliament of Georgia – to consider the question at an extraordinary meeting and provide legislative guarantees to make sure must carry/must offer obligations are extended until the introduction of digital broadcasting into the country.


Impounded satellite dishes

Limited access of the population of the country to cable operators’ services even with the must carry/must offer obligations in place, is an important factor hindering the dissemination of information by diverse sources of media.  This is especially true of regions, where satellite dishes remain to be the only source of receiving diverse information.  Therefore we have the case of discrimination of significant part of population.

On the basis of the so-called “reasonable doubt” the fact of impounding the satellite dishes owned by a private TV company is considered by us as limiting access to the information for the public at large and making attempt of hindering the formation of a fair election environment.  Given these facts, we welcome the willingness of the Interagency Commission to lift a lien from the Maestro TV company satellite dishes and create an opportunity for their distribution provided that certain conditions are met.

The National Platform calls upon the government and the parties involved in the process to make sure the process is conducted quickly and efficiently, negotiate non-discriminatory and acceptable for the parties terms and secure the distribution of satellite dishes in the shortest time possible in the run-up to the elections.

  • The National Platform, in turn, is ready to take part in the monitoring of the process and provide detailed information to the public;
  • In the opinion of the National Platform, attempts of media outlets, including independent televisions, to develop their own distribution systems should not be prevented in the future.

Concrete pre-election environment

Providing a competitive and fair environment is a critical prerequisite for holding the elections that meet western standards, which implies respecting rule of law and giving priority to voters’ interests.  There are several factors that interfere with the equality of election subjects.  Illegal use of administrative resources stands out as the most important and acute problem.

Georgian legislation provides quite a limited definition of the illegal use of administrative resources and it is actually confined to banning the use of technical resources alone (buildings, transport, means of communication and information), while other important cases are left beyond the scope of regulation.  However, it is quite difficult to control even the enforcement of the existing regulations especially when there is no distinguishing line between the state and the ruling party, both in terms of the use of financial resources of the budget and the participation of public officials in election campaign.

Therefore, the National Platform calls upon:

  • Respective government agencies – to maximally prevent the facts of illegal use of administrative resources, respect the law and respond to violations adequately and efficiently;
  • Those political parties that have access to administrative resources – to prevent their illegal use so that the equality of election subjects is respected and discrediting of the pre-election process is avoided.


Secret ballot protection

In the opinion of the National Platform lack of awareness of voters about the secret ballot is alarming. In some cases, intentional campaign, which raises doubts regarding the secret ballot and exerts psychological pressure on the voters, restricts the free expression of will by them, therefore has an extremely negative impact on the election environment.

We call upon the Central Election Commission:

  • To launch a wide-scale campaign on the election-day procedures and state clearly and distinctively that the secret ballot will be strictly and thoroughly protected;
  • Protect strictly and thoroughly election legislation and secret ballot principles on the election day.


The role of international and local observers

The Georgian National Platform considers the role and activities of international and local observers important, thanks the international community and international organizations for wide-scale observation of the elections and hopes that this will contribute to the transparency and reliability of the election process.

We call upon all subjects of the election process to actively cooperate with both international and local observers to secure fair and transparent elections.

Moreover, the National Platform expresses willingness to actively cooperate with representatives of international and local observers throughout the whole election process.

The Election Day

The Georgian National Platform calls upon the political parties, the public at large, and the media:

  • To avoid fueling the tensions and respect European democratic values, universally acknowledged and accepted constitutional rights and freedoms;
  • Make sure the Georgian election legislation is accurately observed on the election day, as well as during the process of reporting on the elections and respective outcomes;
  • Respect the political will of Georgian citizens expressed during the elections as long as the votes are counted in accordance with Georgian legislation and acknowledged by local and international observers.