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Opposition parties present Election Code amendment package

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, October 5
A group of 8 opposition parties presented a joint draft package of Election Code amendments to NGOs, analysts and international organisations’ representatives on Monday at the Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel. The eight opposition political parties – the National Forum, the Conservative Party, the Republican Party, Our Georgia-Free Democrats Party, Way of Georgia Party, New Rights party, the Christian-Democratic Movement and the People’s Party, have been working on the amendments package for over a year.

The proposed package includes 5 main points, according to the Opposition leaders. One point is to change the system of electing Georgia’s Parliament – the project suggests that 75 members of the parliament should be elected through party lists (proportional system) and 75 using regional lists. Another Opposition proposal is to compose the voters' list using biometric Identity Documents of the citizens and that only those voters with biometric IDs should be allowed to vote.

The eight opposition parties have proposed installing CCTV cameras in every election precinct during election day and that scanned electronic versions of all election bulletins should be saved and be available for all participants of all election subjects and the observation organisations. The proposed amendments package envisages establishing a group of judges in the Court of Appeal, as well as special Boards consisting of a judge and four ‘election judges’ to discuss election disputes. According to the authors of the amendment package, the election judges should be selected by the qualifying political parties and the relevant NGOs.

The package also includes amendments to the rules of composing the election administration. The authors of the document suggest that every qualifying political party will have its own representative at each election precinct, who will participate in the Election Day procedures together with the precinct's Election Commission members.

“At this stage we are talking about five important points – the Parliamentary election system, voters lists, Election Day, election disputes and the election administration composition procedures, however there is also a sixth – the use of administrative resources and the media during the election period,” Vakhtang Khmaladze of the Republican Party said. “It is a very important and broad issue and needs to be discussed at a separate conference,” he noted, adding that any qualifying political party is free to give their own suggestions about the election code amendments package. “All sensible ideas will be accepted. Our aim is to achieve the establishment of such an election environment, where the voters will have the chance to freely express their choice,” Khmaladze said.

The opposition politicians suggest that if their recommendations are taken into account, the next elections in Georgia will be conducted “fairly.” “It is important that the opposition managed to draw up their positions and work out a joint project of election code amendments. There is nothing in this draft which is undemocratic,” co-leader of the Conservative Party, Zviad Dzidziguri said, adding that the opposition parties are ready to start negotiations with the ruling administration on election code amendments. “If the ruling authorities decline to discuss the proposed package, they will have to give a serious explanation for their decision,” he said.

Kakha Shartava of the National Forum told journalists that further development of events depends on the ruling administration’s decision. “Despite the fact that it took us a year to draw up the package of proposed amendments, one month is absolutely enough to discuss it. If in a month the ruling authorities do not agree to accept the proposals, it will be clear that the government does not want to hold fair elections and society will have to make some decisions on how to react to this,” the opposition politician stated.

Improving the election environment is in the interests of all political forces, including the ruling administration, the leader of Our Georgia-Free Democrats Party, Irakli Alasania said. “Negotiations on election code amendments will start as soon as possible and will hopefully be fruitful,” he said, calling the decision of the opposition parties to work on the joint amendments package “timely and fruitful.” “Every effort must be made to ensure that Georgian citizens have the opportunity to participate in free and democratic elections and that their choice is secure,” he noted.

Some political analysts have suggested that the majority of the proposed amendments might be accepted by the government, citing that the Opposition is not alone, but is acting under the supervision of international organisations. “The amendments project can be turned into a reality - the only thing needed is the political will of the ruling administration,” political analyst, Soso Tsiskarishvili said.

Ruling party MPs have said they are ready to cooperate with the Opposition to improve the election environment, however they have pointed out that the “language of ultimatum” is unacceptable. “There is a quite positive experience of cooperation between the government and the opposition, however the ultimatum tone is not a way to bring positive results,” MP Nugzar Tsiklauri of National Movement Party said.