Major political parties in Georgia have taken a significant step to ensure that their party members adhere to established standards of conduct in advance of May 21 parliamentary elections. The “Code of Conduct for Party Activists” – a voluntary agreement between the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Georgia’s political parties – was officially launched at a press conference April 9 in Tbilisi.
Participation is open to all political parties contesting the parliamentary election. Many of Georgia’s major parties have signed on, pledging to enforce the code and publicize it among their members. All of the signatories regard it as binding on their leaders, candidates, representatives in the election administration and activists.
The code received an endorsement from Nino Burjandze, Speaker of Georgia’s Parliament, who hailed its potential for improving Georgia’s electoral process. “I hope that the code will work now, as it is necessary for our reality,” she said.
The code draws on lessons learned from the campaign surrounding Georgia’s Jan. 5 presidential election, including comments from election observers and, most important, observations and ideas from the parties themselves. In its post election report, NDI, which fielded an international observer delegation, pointed out the need for improvement in the campaign environment. “All political parties should consider agreeing to a series of commitments regarding their conduct during the election,” NDI said in a Jan. 7 statement. “This could include respecting the role of domestic monitors, refraining from the use of inflammatory language and inappropriate behavior by party observers inside polling stations, and renouncing intimidation of activists from other parties and voters.”
The code says that harassment of any kind is unacceptable; hate speech should be avoided; journalists should not be obstructed; citizens should not be influenced unfairly, such as by employer pressure; and the role of observers should be respected. The code also calls on parties to assume a role in ensuring a free and fair electoral process on election day.
NDI will monitor compliance with the code and encourage other organizations and journalists to report breaches by code signatories.
Pictured: Mary O’Hagan (center right), NDI senior resident director in Georgia, and Robert Wilson (center left) of USAID at Tbilisi news conference.
Published on Apr. 22, 2008