TBILISI, DFWatch – One day after President Saakashvili met regional governors and told them to guarantee that the election process is exemplary, a fistfight broke out during an opposition event near a Russian checkpoint north of Gori.
The fistfight on Tuesday was explained by a leading ruling party lawmaker as a result of people’s animosity towards Bidzina Ivanishvili because he said that Georgia started the 2008 war. But spokespersons for Georgian Dream said the fight had been staged by vigilantes and local government employees.
It is unlikely that we will ever know for sure what really happened in Mereti. In that way, the incident is an example of how divided the country is in this election campaign.
It has become common practice to create enemy image from political opponents, according to a new report, written by the National Democratic Institute (NDI). There has been hate speech towards religious and ethnic minorities during the campaign. Observers also found examples of politically motivated pressure, accusations of bribery of officials and the continued use of administrative resources for campaign purpose.
As the NDI’s observers presented their report Friday, after following the election campaign in Georgia for one week, they expressed concern about a growing political polarization and the lack of a political dialogue between political leaders.
The expert group recommends that all the political parties sit down and look at the party financing law in light of recent experiences.
To remedy people’s lack of trust in politics, the group’s Per Eklund said there is needed more engagement and more transparency.
“Law enforcements, prosecutors and courts, as well as Central Election Commission should carefully fulfill their duties, should make responsible those who violate rights of voters and candidates, election participants should respect law and appeal disputed issues in courts,” he said.
In their report, the group hands out criticism not only to the Chamber of Control, but also to the audit agency’s targets. It says the Chamber should be more careful to conduct its investigations in a fair and consistent way, hold back more in talking to the media before concluding each investigation, and be more transparent when information is released.
But political parties on their part should be careful not to arouse the Chamber’s suspicion, or ‘avoid gaining and spending financing in illegal ways’, as the report puts it.
The experts also have advice to give about how politicians should conduct themselves when making election promises: They should clearly explain to voters the financial sources to the promises.