Public Defender's Statement on Progress of Local Elections

On October 21, 2017, representatives of the Public Defender observed the local self-government elections of mayors and local councils in the 64 municipalities of Georgia. Monitoring showed that the elections took place mainly in a peaceful situation, but there were certain violations and problematic issues.

Representatives of the Public Defender checked hotline notifications and information released by the media about violations in the polling stations. There were cases of the late opening of polling stations, non-registration of complaints by commissions, incorrect filling of control papers, incorrect filling of protocols, starting the voting process without placing a control paper in the ballot box, lost of a stamp of the polling station, signing of ballots by registrators in advance, voting by the use of driving license and mobilization of police in the vicinity of polling stations. Part of the violations is related to improper preparation of the members of district election commissions.

It should be noted that the representatives of the Public Defender monitored elections in the villages of Rukhi, Shamgona, Khurcha, Orsantia and Ganmukhuri along the dividing line. The elections were conducted in a calm environment; police were mobilized in the vicinity of polling stations; some procedural violations were detected, though they would not affect the final outcome of the poll.

Representatives of the Public Defender also monitored the voting process in Kutaisi’s penitentiary establishment No 2 and Batumi’s penitentiary establishment No 3, as well as in Batumi’s psychiatric hospital, where no significant violations have taken place. The elections were calm in the penitentiary establishments of Tbilisi as well.

Collection of data on the voters, who arrived at the polling stations, by certain individuals – representatives of elections entities, was particularly problematic. The Public Defender does not share the opinion of the Central Election Commission that voter’s identifiable information is not personal data. These data are personal regardless of the established mode of its availability. Consequently, it is important such data to be collected in accordance with the principles of the law: in a fair and legal manner, without violation of the dignity of voters, only for clearly defined legitimate purposes and only in the volume necessary for achieving the relevant legitimate purpose. Collection of personal data on voters may violate the basic principle of elections – ban on limitation and control of free expression of voter’s will. Realization of this principle is under question by the recent practice, which was obvious during these elections as well, when the so-called coordinators and agitators of the electoral entities were massively mobilized outside the polling stations and were registering the voters who arrived at the polling stations.

We welcome the fact that the Personal Data Protection Inspector echoed this issue. It is important this institution to examine the legality of such actions.

Information about the transportation of voters to the polling stations by individual election entities is also noteworthy, as it may contain signs of bribery.

As for the information about the cases of violence, the Public Defender will study them on his own initiative and will watch how the competent agencies will respond to them.

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