TBILISI, DFWatch – It is still unknown when international observers will start monitoring the election in Georgia.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 1, but long-term observsers have not yet arrived in the country.
Local rights groups have for months been asking for long-term observers. Based on their request, President Mikheil Saakashvili instructed the foreign ministry to invite international observers, which it did in the beginning of April.
It invited the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly, the European Parliament and EU institutions, asking them to send long term observers to Georgia.
The invitation asked each of them to send an unlimited number of observers as soon as possible.
The foreign ministry notes that international observers are arriving seven months before the elections, which is an unprecedented event.
The ministry also appealed to Catherine Ashton, EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, asking that the EU finance a media monitoring project similar to a project in 2010 during the local elections.
ODIHR in the middle of June sent a three-member mission to Georgia to prepare for the long term observers.
In the beginning of July, the OSCE requested member countries to send up to 400 observers to Georgia in order to monitor the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The OSCE plans to have 28 long term observers, in addition to the main team of experts. They will monitor the election process all over Georgia. The organization will send 350 short term observers for Election Day, who will be following the process of voting, counting and summarizing the results.
This long-term mission will also focus on issues like fulfillment of amended legislation, its influence, activity of the media, and the application of new regulations relating to party financing, system of appeal and campaign process.
Normally, OSCE/ODIHR observation missions have a duration of 6-8 weeks before an election.
During the parliamentary elections in 2008, OSCE/ODIHR long term missions were in place five weeks before the elections, while it began its activity two months before the parliament elections in 2003 with 34 election experts and long term observers and 390 short term observers. The reason for this was given as a ‘strong interest of the international community’. The results of these elections were partly nullified.
The interest is high now too, but the monitoring process hasn’t started yet.
At the end of June John Bass, USA former ambassador to Georgia stated that USA government will help observation missions to. He said USA will finance NDI and IRI with USD 2 million in order to support creating free and fair election environment in Georgia.
NDI should send three long-term observers from July to October while IRI should send 12 long-term observers three months before elections. On the Election Day NDI will send 20 additional monitors, IRI will have 30 observers.
July 20 Central Election Commission confirmed instruction of international observers’ registration and started receiving appeals.
By the latest information CEC has only received appeal from IRI. NDI office representatives say they do not know exact answer when long-term observers plan to arrive.
Open Democracy Committee stated August 1 that they have arrived in Georgia on invitation of president and it’s already three months that they monitor period before elections.
CEC says that observation missions still have time to appeal for registration – not later than seven days before elections, while local organizations should appeal at least ten days before elections. CEC will make decision in two days since their appeal.
Four local NGOs have appealed: International Women Political Resources Center, Save the Life, Voters’ League and Union of Georgia’s Professional Education and Training of Qualified staff and Students.
Georgian Dream coalition representatives consider that observers are suspiciously late.
Maia Panjikidze, Spokesperson for the coalition said on August 7 that long-term observation mission terms has finished and accordingly, long-term observation won’t take place.
“Saakashvili first stated about long-term observers in February, but countries were sent invitations in April without indicated date of elections. I have seen this invitation in Germany. A week has passed since election campaign started and they haven’t arrived yet. Accordingly there will not be long-term observation. In best case we will have 6 week observation,” she said.