Georgia: Achieving electoral democracy
Georgia achieved the status of electoral democracy in 2013 following the country’s first peaceful handover of power to an opposition party after parliamentary elections in 2012 and a positive assessment of presidential polls in 2013. This success, named among Georgia’s biggest achievements in the last decade, sealed the country’s 20-year long journey to free and fair elections as well as UNDP’s decade-long assistance to the electoral process in Georgia.
Elections have been largely lacking credibility in Georgia since 1990s. The allegations concerned falsified voters’ lists, use of administrative resources, ballot stuffing and intimidation of voters. Election fraud has been the key factor behind the Rose Revolution in 2003. Since then, the country made significant steps towards organizing credible elections. The national and local elections of 2012-2014 were judged free and fair by international observers.
Increased professionalism of the Central Electoral Commission of Georgia has been noted in all election reports since 2012. The electoral administration, now chaired by Tamar Zhvania, a former UNDP staff member who used to lead election support programmes from 2006 to 2012, has gained confidence and public trust. In recent years, for instance, the Central Electoral Commission of Georgia received international and domestic awards for Election Management, first-time voters’ training and easy access to public information.
With funds from the European Union, UNDP’s election support has focused on three major components of credible elections: qualified electoral administrations, improving electoral legislation and informing and involving voters. UNDP trained over 50 thousand members of electoral commissions, established a center to promote electoral reforms and provide training, and led nationwide information campaigns for voters, including youth, national minorities and internally displaced people. UNDP’s assistance also helped to balance the polarised media environment during elections and build national expertise in media monitoring.
Georgia’s achievements on the path to electoral democracy will be tested by a new round of parliamentary elections in October 2016. With the professional electoral administration, enhanced democratic institutions and, most importantly, determination and strong will of voters, Georgian has a great chance to consolidate its democratic gains.