The head of the European Parliament’s Elections Observer Mission to Georgia, Ana Gomes, has issued a statement in the wake of Sunday’s runoff vote saying that the mission was concerned by reports of "alleged voter intimidation”
“We were also worried to receive information on a high number of alleged cases of pressure and reprisals on voters, including threats of job dismissals and social benefits cuts as a result of their support for opposition candidates. We understand that most of those allegations could not be substantiated nor were reported for investigation, but cannot exclude that fear would prevent victims to come forward with formal complaints. We leave this public concern to the attention of the relevant authorities, trusting they will ensure that any such threats will not materialise
We are concerned that in a number of cases some of these people went beyond the role of observers, interfering in the work of the PECs and interacting with voters inappropriately. This could suggest that they were not genuine observers, but rather surrogates of political parties or candidates.” - said Ana Gomes.
She also added that whilst the electoral environment in Tbilisi was largely peaceful, outside of the capital it was a different situation:
“The picture was different in several places in rural areas, especially when the competing candidates were involved in a close race. For instance in Mtskheta, Mukhrani, Akhaltsikhe we met groups of men standing outside the precincts, often creating a tense atmosphere, suggesting possible intimidation of voters or confrontation among different candidate supporters. In some cases locals identified those bystanders with sports and martial arts groups linked to the ruling party. In several of these cases police was present, but seemed unable or unwilling to disperse the bystanders.”
According to Ana Gomes “In these circumstances, ensuring the respect for the institutional checks and balances between the different branches of power, and the democratic roles of the majority and of the opposition is of paramount importance. It should not be forgotten that the Government of today could be the opposition of tomorrow, and the opposition of today could be the Government of tomorrow.”