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ISFED: Runoff Will be Highly Competitive

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, November 6
The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) has stated that the presidential runoff will be highly competitive.

ISFED says that nearly equal support was received by the frontrunners on October 28 polling day, the ruling party supported candidate Salome Zurabishvili and the opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze.

“The 2018 presidential election will be an important test for development and consolidation of Georgian democracy,” ISFED says.

The NGO says that judging from experience, highly competitive election runoff in Georgia increases the risks of tension, violent incidents and pressure in the period between the two rounds.

“ Two days after the first round of the presidential election, members of the parliamentary majority made alarming statements predicting civil war and revolutionary scenarios if the opposition candidate wins.

“According to the union Power is Unity, which supports Grigol Vashadze, the same day on October 30, members of MP Enzel Mkoyan’s family and about 30 more people invaded Power in Unity office in Akhalkalaki and attacked representatives of the opposition union. As a result, four members of the Power in Unity were admitted to Akhalkalaki Regional Hospital due to multiple injuries,” ISFED says.

The NGO says that the police is investigating the case and adds that several other incidents involving a verbal and physical confrontation between supporters of presidential candidates were also detected in the past few days.

“These statements made by political office holders within the pre-election campaign of the presidential runoff contains elements of propaganda for civil war and encouragement of violence, which puts the conduct of election processes in a violence-free environment at risk.

“Such aggressive rhetoric undermines the idea of democratic elections and contradicts political rights guaranteed by the international law according to which voters should be able to express their opinions independently, without any violence, threats of violence, coercion, bribery and any other types of manipulating interventions,” ISFED says.

The NGO urged political officials, presidential candidates, parties and their supporters:

To demonstrate a high degree of responsibility when making public statements and immediately stop their aggressive rhetoric that may contain propaganda of civil war and violence, aiming to intimidate voters;

To clearly express their respect toward the will of voters manifested through the second round of the presidential election;

To eliminate hate speech and undertones of violence in their public statements.

The authorities and the law enforcement bodies:

To investigate the incident of a violent attack that took place in Akhalkalaki on October 30 in a timely and impartial manner, as well as any other acts of confrontation that took place during the same period. To identify all participants of the crime and hold them legally responsible;

To ensure a safe and peaceful electoral environment within the scope of their competencies, before the presidential runoff, on and after the polling day.