Sunday, January 6, 2008

Going through the OSCE preliminary report

The OSCE election observation mission’s preliminary conclusion includes the crucial line: “While the 5 January 2008 extraordinary presidential election in Georgia was in essence consistent with most OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections, significant challenges were revealed which need to be addressed urgently.”

But with the praise for Georgia’s “first genuinely competitive presidential election” and a transparent Central Election Commission came criticisms of the campaign season (polarized and characterized by deep mistrust), the courts (favored the ruling party without sound legal justification), the broadcast media (unbalanced in Saakashvili’s favor) and CEC members (partisan and without adjudication skills).

The OSCE’s early report on the vote and the count raises concerns: a “significant number” of observers called the precinct counts “bad or very bad.” What does that mean for the outcome of the count itself? Rep. Alcee Hastings, the Florida congressman leading the observation mission, stressed in his briefing today that they did not expect the violations to affect the actual result of the election.

Those violations included: voters not being inked or not checked for ink (a safeguard against multiple voting), and in a dozen cases voters who were inked being allowed to vote; unauthorized people, mostly police, in some stations; a “considerable number” of precinct commissions not doing simple checks on their count, like writing down the total number of voters first; observers and precinct commission members being unlawfully forbidden to examine ballots; and unauthorized people “frequently” participating in the vote count.

In Samtskhe-Javakheti (which is poor, predominantly ethnic Armenian, and went overwhelmingly for Saakashvili), the OSCE deemed voting bad or very bad in 24% of the polling places they visited.

While the OSCE representatives naturally declined to talk about the results of the count (still in progress) other than stating that the violations observed shouldn’t affect the outcome, the problems they documented could be used by opposition campaigns to file for recounts.

Recounts in Georgia, according to a New Generation-New Initiative lawyer, can only be done on a precinct-by-precinct basis, and only after the CEC agrees there was a problem with the voting. The NGNI lawyer said recounts probably won’t be the fallback option for the opposition, though if Saakashvili’s total count strays close to the 50% mark, a systematic push for recounts might be an option they’ll take.

4 Comments:

At January 6, 2008 at 7:27 PM , Blogger laura sue said...

Has anyone read the link on Alcee Hastings? Granted it's Wikipedia, but how is he able to hold a position in which he judges the fairness of an election or let alone the fairness of anything.
Especially in a country whose government is know for bribing to get is way.
I am truely disgusted now.

 
At January 6, 2008 at 7:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow indeed. He's only one of six judges in the history of America to have been impeached (for bribery)...

Ryan
Tbilisi

 
At January 6, 2008 at 9:46 PM , Blogger mark said...

Yeah, I read it as well. Amazing. And no one in the media sees it fit to report the fact that observer for electoral fairness is a convicted bribe taker. Breathtaking.

Mark

Tbilisi

 
At January 6, 2008 at 10:51 PM , Blogger Winston Featherly said...

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