Resume: On 31 October 2020, parliamentary elections were held in Georgia. There were numerous irregularities and inaccuracies identified both during the voting process and in the tabulation of votes. This is highlighted by the opposition parties as well as by local and international observer organisations. In accordance with the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy’s (ISFED) parallel vote tabulation, 8% of elections precincts had mismatches in summary protocols which might have affected the elections results by less than 4.1%. To explain irregularities of such scale by human errors (technical inaccuracies) is unjustified and raises serious doubts in regard to the reliability of the elections.
FactCheck cannot enter into a discussion on whether or not the elections were rigged. However, assessments of the local and international organisations raise serious doubts that the identified irregularities did influence the election results.
As stated by the former Minister of Justice and the current number four in the Georgian Dream party list, Tea Tsulukiani, the opposition does not have any weighty argument that the elections were rigged. Ms Tsulukiani said: “A multi-party parliament is the will of the Georgian people and they assuredly have these mandates in their pockets. They do not have any weighty argument that the elections were rigged,” and added that snap elections are not on the agenda.
On 31 October 2020, parliamentary elections were held in Georgia. There were numerous irregularities and inaccuracies identified both during the voting process and in the tabulation of votes which caused some voters and participating subjects to deem the elections as illegitimate (see FactCheck’s article on the same topic). All eight opposition parties which passed the 1% threshold refused to enter the parliament. Many observer organisations pointed out irregularities and shortcomings identified during the elections.
On 1 November 2020, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) published parallel vote tabulation results for the 31 October parliamentary elections. The ISFED concluded that: “In the vote tabulation process, there was a tendency of mismatches in the summary protocols when the number of ballot papers cast exceeded the number of signatures in voters lists which represents a violation. Additionally, at certain polling stations the mismatch was significantly higher than individual cases.” As stated by the ISFED, such violations were reported at 8% of polling stations and a tendency of this scale has not been documented in the past years. The ISFED findings also read that according to the PVT analysis, the maximum impact on election results would be less than 4.1%.
On 4 November 2020, 25 NGOs issued a joint statement about the 31 October elections. According to the NGOs’ assessment, the Georgian government failed to ensure that the elections adhered to democratic standards. The statement also reads: “Moreover, in our assessment, the 2020 parliamentary elections were the least democratic and free among the elections held under the Georgian Dream government.”
On 16 November 2020, the International Republican Institute (IRI) published the interim report of its Technical Election Assessment Mission, analysing the country’s 31 October 2020 parliamentary elections. The report indicates numerous gross irregularities. As concluded by the IRI, the procedures in place for results management were not sufficiently transparent nor conducive to achieving credible results.
IRI Regional Director for Eurasia, Stephen Nix, also negativelyassessed the parliamentary elections. As stated by Mr Nix, Georgia’s elections ultimately fell short of the standards set by the country’s new constitutional and electoral reforms and dampened citizens’ faith in electoral institutions.
The opposition parties have their own arguments. According to Tamar Kordzaia, member of the Power is in Unity coalition, the preliminary assessment that the elections were not legitimate was confirmed. As clarified by Ms Kordzaia, the number of proportional precincts with mismatches in summary protocols is 986 in total. The number of lost (disappeared) ballot papers at these precincts amount to 4,025, the number of invalid ballot papers in proportional elections is 63,335 and the number of voters who turned out to vote at precincts with mismatches constitutes 597,633.
European Georgia Movement for Freedom member, Sergi Kapanadze, assesses that the scale of rigging and pressure has been unparalleled in Georgia’s election history: “In the majoritarian part, there is a mismatch in 52% of the summary protocols from 3,847 precincts; that is, in 2,007 precincts. Basically, every second protocol for a majoritarian candidate filled out at a precinct is flawed. The ‘carousel’ was used at nearly every second precinct in the majoritarian part. There were at least five ‘carousels’ for 440 precincts. In the proportional part, there is mismatch at every third precinct. There were empty envelopes cast in 969 precincts. There are nearly 8,000 empty envelopes lacking in the proportional part alone. To sum up these figures, the statistics indicate that there was a large-scale vote rigging.”
In regard to the position of the Central Election Commission (CEC), it only indicates objective circumstances behind the mismatches between the summary protocols for the proportional and majoritarian elections. The CEC also seeks to explain all other gross irregularities by human error (technical inaccuracy) and dismisses a legitimate protest and the suspicion from the public as a deliberately misleading campaign. Given the fact that several mobile ballot box results were annulled as a result of the recount of nearly 20 precincts and the proportional and majoritarian results were repealed whilst a run-off was even announced in one case, the CEC tries to evade any responsibility by citing human errors and other circumstances (see FactCheck’s article).
FactCheck concludes that Tea Tsulukiani’s statement is HALF TRUE.
To reach the verdict in the article, FactCheck mostly relied on ISFED’s parallel vote tabulation results. According to these results, mismatches were found at 8% of the polling stations and their impact on election results would be less than 4.1%.
On 11 December 2020, the ISFED released a statement on identification of technical fault in the vote calculation formula. As a result, given the margin of error, the ISFED’s PVT results are now in line with the CEC’s official results.
Given the aforementioned change, the results of ISFED’s PVT can no longer be used as a “weighty” argument that the elections were rigged. However, other circumstances which perhaps are not named in the article but are emphasised by NGOs, including international organisations, will still be taken into account. These circumstances are: leaving complaints en masse without consideration, the so-called “carousels” and violations during the pre-election campaign (use of administrative resources, pressure, intimidation, etc.), which are also highlighted by the ISFED. Therefore, the verdict of LIE will be changed into the verdict of HALF TRUE.