Municipal Elections 2021 – Most election violations were observed in Marneuli district polling stations 

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 In the last few hours of the October 2, 2021 Municipal Elections the situation got tense in several polling stations and incidents were observed that undermined the peaceful and fair election environment on the Election Day. The PEC chairpersons created obstacles for the HRC observers when they wanted to register complaints. One of the HRC observers was unlawfully dismissed from the polling station. The miscarriages and violations were observed during the counting process too.
In the majority of polling stations, where the HRC observed the polling process, the observed violations cannot affect the final results of the elections. There were no violations in the polling stations in Imereti region, where the HRC conducted election monitoring. Consequently, the HRC observers did not lodge complaints in the polling stations, but one complaint was sent to the District Election Commission. One complaint was lodged in the polling station and one to the DEC in Kakheti – in the villages with ethnic minority inhabitants in Kvareli, Telavi and Lagodekhi municipalities (Karajala, Kabali, Chantliskure, Tivi, Saruso); 3 complaints were lodged in the precincts of Sagarejo municipality; all of them were sent to the DEC for consideration. 
Both the polling and votes’ counting process were conducted with serious problems in the villages with ethnic minority inhabitants in Bolnisi and Marneuli municipalities, Kvemo Kartli region. More than half of the complaints lodged by the HRC observers were prepared in the polling stations in Marneuli municipality (16 complaints, 32 notes in the logbooks and 4 complaints in the DEC). The observers prepared 4 complaints against the PECs and 2 complaints were lodged to the DEC.
All in all, the HRC monitors have already lodged 24 complaints and made 48 notes in the logbooks. 11 complaints were sent to the District Election Commissions. The situation got tense in several polling stations in the second half of the day before the precincts were closed. 
Human Rights Center calls on the District Election Commissions and the Central Election Commission to impartially consider the complaints of the monitoring organizations. Before the final results are announced, it is significant how the votes counting process will be conducted. It is also important that the DECs and CEC made lawful and impartial decisions in response to the observed violations and incidents and take strict measures against the PEC members and chairpersons, who violated the law. 
HRC monitored the 2021 Municipal Elections through 51 qualified election observered in three regions of Georgia – Kakheti, Imereti and Kvemo Kartli. 1. Kakheti - in the villages of Sagarejo, Kvareli, Telavi and Lagodekhi municipalities inhabited with ethnic minorities; 2. In Kvemo Kartli: in the villages of Gardabani, Marneuli and Bolnisi municipalities inhabited with ethnic minorities (Nakhiduri, Talaveri, Savaneti, Tchapala, Mamkhviti, Kvemo Artevani, Keshalo, Lambalo, Duzagrama, Sazatendi, Kalinino, Marneuli, Azizkendi, Sabirkendi and Kizilajlo); 3. In Imereti in the special polling stations in Kutaisi, Khoni and Tskaltubo, where election violations are most expected. 
In accordance with the initial assessment of the HRC, like during recent elections, big part of the election violations observed by the HRC observers during the 2020 Parliamentary Elections are caused by the low qualification of the PEC members that was very common tendency during the recent elections too. Fair remarks and complaints of the HRC observers about the violations and miscarriages of the PEC members and the chairpersons often irritate them and it creates tension and sometimes conflicts.
HRC Requested to annul the election results in the polling station # 48 in Marneuli Election District # 22
In the polling station # 48 in Marneuli Election District # 22 the PEC members tried to oppress the HRC observer demanding her not to make any notes or complaints about the violations. The HRC monitor observed that one voter voted twice but the PEC members did not allow her to video-record the violation and threatened with “breaking her fingers”. The PEC chairperson was aggressive towards observer, and pushed her against the wall. The observer had to call the Marneuli DEC # 22 and report about the incident. After the DEC representatives arrived in the precinct, the tense situation timely improved but after the left the situation again became chaotic. The HRC observer lodged a complaint in this polling station. 
In this precinct, the HRC monitor observed that several voters voted twice. The PEC members standing at the ballot box did not allow them to drop the envelope in the box claiming that they had already voted. Afterwards, several persons managed to drop the envelopes in the box by force.
Human Rights Center demanded to annul the election results in the precinct # 48. 
The HRC observers reported that they observe excessive activity and attempt to control the voters by the coordinators and agitators mostly of the Georgian Dream in the vicinities of the polling stations. They are recording the names of the voters who arrive at the polling stations in their notebooks, talk with them and sometimes conduct campaigning. Similar facts, directly or indirectly, hinder the citizens to demonstrate their free will during the elections. The Article 45 Part 12 of the Election Code of Georgia prohibits to physically obstruct the movement of voters in the polling station or within 100 meters of the polling station. On Election Day it is also forbidden to gather people or register voters within 100 meters from the polling station. The unlawful activities of the coordinators and representatives of the ruling party are not adequately monitored, controlled and reacted from the side of the state institutions. The police is responsible to eradicate similar illegal facts but the PEC chairpersons are authorized to inform the police about these violations that negatively affect the healthy election environment in the polling stations they supervise. However, frequently, the PEC chairpersons refrain from reporting about the incidents to the police and claim that it is not within their competence. 
In the course of the election process, the Human Rights Center filed the registered complaints about the observed election violations to the District Election Commissions and to the Central Election Commission; in future, in case of necessity Human Rights Center will appeal the court. The organization takes all necessary measures to react to all possible election violations. 
The HRC will review all election violations during the Election Day and afterwards in the final monitoring report. 
On October 2, HRC was providing the media sources with the information about the observed violations in various polling stations and general tendencies in the polling process. The information provided by the observers was published on the online newspaper of the HRC – in Georgian and English languages; the information was shared on the HRC facebook page, on youtube channel and in Twitter. 
In the frame of the election projects, the HRC monitored the pre-election period too through long-term observers. During the pre-election period the monitoring will cover following issues: use of administrative resources for electoral purposes, staffing of election commissions, pressure on voters, coercion and bribery, cases of intimidation, threats and violence against electoral subjects and other possible significant violations.
On October 1, Human Rights Center published the newsletter, which summarizes the tendencies and findings from the pre-election period monitoring. 
On October 1, Human Rights Center and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) also disseminated a joint document, which evaluates the political context of the pre-election period, issues related with the judiciary independence including the court proceedings into the alleged politically motivated cases, the issues related with the freedom of assembly and alarming facts of the illegal surveillance. Human Rights Center is the FIDH member organization in Georgia. 
HRC monitored the October 2, 2021 Municipal Elections within the framework of the projects supported by the Open Society Foundation and the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation.
Human Rights Center