I was fortunate to be selected to be an international election observer for the recent Georgian parliamentary elections held last Saturday. I was one of approximately 250 International Observers serving under the OSCE - ODIHR election monitoring operations.
My observation area included the mountainous southwestern region of Georgia, headquartered in the town of Bolnisi. Bolnisi is a beautiful region in the Svaneti Mountains close to the Armenian border and includes significant Azerbaijani populations. Our team of Short-Term Observers covered over 70 polling stations, including the opening and closing of polling stations, and observed the collection of ballots at the District Election Commissions. For anybody who has done such work, it is a long, long day.
If you take the time to read the preliminary statement by the OSCE - ODIHR, you will see that the organization basically declared the elections to be fair, free and democratic. However, the organization also points out that the political atmosphere in which the elections took place included significant distrust among the participating political parties, which reflects itself in significant tension, before, during, and after the election. The report goes on to indicate that regardless of the fact that the actual election day is conducted in a fairly orderly and process oriented manner, the levels of distrust among the participants does still leave lots of room for improvement in terms of truly having what we would call western-style normalized elections.