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Public Defender Responds to the 19 May Midterm Elections

Within the power granted by the legislation of Georgia, representatives of the Public Defender of Georgia were actively monitoring the midterm elections throughout the day on May 19, especially in Zugdidi. They were responding to the incidents and violations of rights within their competence. They visited a number of polling stations and met with the persons detained under administrative procedures.

The monitoring showed a number of problems, like previous elections. In particular, during the day, various public sources were spreading reports about alleged bribery of voters. It is of utmost importance the responsible authorities to provide a thorough and objective inquiry of all such cases and to respond to the violations timely and effectively, in order to identify relevant persons and take adequate measures against them. For its part, the Public Defender’s Office continues to supervise the legal processes relating to the above cases.

The monitoring also showed that mass mobilization of coordinators of political parties, who were collecting information about the arrival of voters at the polling stations, remained one of the main challenges. Apart from yesterday’s elections, the past experience clearly demonstrates that similar situation outside polling stations often contributes to tension and various incidents. Although the existing legislative framework does not prohibit such activities of coordinators, the Public Defender considers that this vicious practice is a leverage to influence the will of voters and this issue needs to be regulated in the future in order to ensure expression of free will by voters in a peaceful and free environment.

In addition, according to the Public Defender, a number of incidents of physical confrontation and violence that occurred on May 19 harm the peaceful and safe electoral environment. According to our information, investigation was launched into 2 cases and 5 persons were detained under administrative procedures, who were later released. In addition, one of the juveniles alleges that the law enforcers forcedly took him to a police station. The Public Defender continues to examine the lawfulness of measures taken by the law enforcement authorities, focusing on the interference in journalistic activities and the juvenile-related case.

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