Looking at the upcoming elections, I think it’s important to recall that they will be held under a new electoral system, made possible by the historic agreement reached between key political actors on 8 March, and later supported by almost the full political spectrum. This means that the basic parameters underlying these elections now enjoy wide support and confidence, which is an important achievement contributing to the integrity of the political process.
Thanks to this agreement, the field of political parties with a real chance to enter the Parliament has significantly broadened, promoting an outcome where Georgian voter preferences will be more accurately reflected in the legislature. I think this is an asset in and of itself. My hope is also that more constructive policy debates and an improved culture of consensus-building will become the next logical steps, as this country moves towards fully proportional elections in 2024.
As noted in the ODIHR interim election report, the laws guiding the elections have been improved through the implementation of earlier ODIHR recommendations, even though a number of recommendations unfortunately were left unaddressed. But a sound legal basis is anyway in place. What is key now is its effective implementation and enforcement.
Local observer groups have reported a number of incidents and violations of campaign rules. It would be improper of me to comment on the individual cases, but just to stress that it is important that all such cases get serious follow-up and investigation, even beyond Election Day. Transparent and effective investigative remedies are part of the overall election process and will influence the final assessment of these elections as well as setting the standard for the future elections.
What happens on Election Day will be important. Apart from the proper conduct of administration and enforcement institutions, much will depend on the political parties, who should continue working with their activists and supporters to uphold the highest possible ethical standards. One element is to avoid physical confrontations and escalations. A safe space around the polling stations devoid of intimidation should be the aim; an aim that is even more important now due to the pandemic.
The European Union and its Member States will pay close attention to all these aspects, as we conduct our European Diplomatic Watch on Election Day.