OSCE Parliamentary Assembly says Georgia State Audit Service is “making questionable decisions and imposing harsh penalties without clear or transparent guidelines.”

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has raised concerns about the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Georgia.  A delegation of senior officials from the Assembly today concluded a three-day visit to Georgia aimed at assessing the country’s pre-election climate. Tonino Picula (Croatia), appointed by the OSCE Chair-in-Office to lead the short-term OSCE observer mission, led a delegation, which included OSCE PA President Riccardo Migliori (Italy), Secretary General Spencer Oliver and Director of Presidential Administration Roberto Montella.

The delegation met with a wide range of stakeholders in the upcoming election, including ruling authorities, opposition parties, election administrators, representatives of the media and civil society, as well as members of the international community in Tbilisi.

Picula released the following statement today upon the conclusion of the visit:

“The upcoming Parliamentary elections are of great importance for the future of democracy in Georgia,” Picula said. “We appreciate having this time to speak with people at all levels in Georgian society this week and welcome obvious pre-election efforts that aimed to ensure accuracy of the voters’ list, provide transparency in campaign finance, and expand media accessibility throughout the country.

“There are several issues that concern us and that we will continue to watch closely. We have seen a growing political polarization in the country. We are particularly concerned by the practice of certain law enforcement institutions in Georgia. In our view, the State Audit Office is using broad discretionary authority to investigate the legality of individual or party spending and making questionable decisions and imposing harsh penalties without clear or transparent guidelines. The fines levied are disproportionate and apparently being applied in a selective manner mainly targeting one political subject.

“A fair and independent judiciary system is also fundamental to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections. After this visit, we have concerns as to the possibility of receiving proper legal remedy from the court system. The success of these elections depends also on a responsible opposition, which has the legal right to promote its goals while respecting the rules of the campaign. All parties should respect and accept the election results.”

President Migliori added, “In the final weeks of this campaign I hope the Georgian authorities commit to a credible election and help create a level playing field for all parties that includes access to media and the protection of journalists whose work is essential for voters to make a free and informed choice on election day.”

source CEW with www.oscepa.org