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Saakashvili misses deadline for nominating CEC candidates

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, January 12
President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili met NGO representatives in Batumi on January 11 to nominate three candidates for Central Election Commission (CEC) Chair. He failed to nominate anyone however and appealed to Parliament to give him a further two weeks to do so. Opposition members have not accepted this and accuse Saakashvili of breaking the law.

During the meeting Saakashvili talked about foreign threats and the importance of holding proper elections in the country. He stated that the period of time he had been given under the latest election code amendments to nominate three candidates had proved insufficient, as the stated dates coincided with the holidays. "Our main aim is to hold free and exemplary elections in Georgia, which will not raise any questions. Holding such elections is one of the main guarantees for the country’s security, as the foreign threat still exists. If the process is not perfectly organised and conducted, it may cause civil confrontation which will enable our enemy to make another intervention in the country. I appeal to Parliament to prolong the deadline as there has not been enough time to make such an important decision,” Saakashvili said.

Saakashvili added that his suggestion would serve the interests of opposition CEC members as well, as they would choose the next Chair from among the three candidates nominated and the delay will give them more time to discuss their respective merits. However Tina Khidasheli, from the Alliance for Georgia, says that the delay is due to the fact that Eka Siradze has been nominated as the common candidate of the NGO sector in line with the election code amendments. "It is very clear that the Government did not expect such a powerful and independent candidate as Siradze to be nominated and now it is frightened and trying to find a suitable opponent. That is why it needs this prolongation. These amendments came into force when the President signed them, and if he thought that the period of time these clearly gave him were not long enough he should have said so then, not now,” Khidasheli told The Messenger.

Conservative Kakha Kukava, also told The Messenger that Siradze’s and lawyer Kakha Sopromadze’s candidacies are a big problem for the Government. "These two persons enjoy international confidence. The Government knows that if they are among the three candidates, the opposition will easily agree on future Chair, who will be an important guarantee of free elections in which the Government Mayoral nominee will be defeated and Zviad Dzidziguri will be Tbilisi Mayor. By prolonging the decision Saakashvili will try to find a way out of this situation,” Kukava said.

The Election Commission’s website explicitly says that “The Georgian President, after consultations with non-governmental organisations, will select and nominate three candidates from a list of applicants presented by NGOs, no later than January 8, 2010.” As Khidasheli told this newspaper the President has therefore already broken the law and is intending to do so further. "Nothing is said about this in the election code, but in the Constitution it says that if the President breaks the law, Parliament should impeach him. I do not suppose Parliament will do it, but under the law, this delay is a breaking of the law from the President’s side,” Khidasheli said.

Levan Tarkhnishvili, outgoing Chairman of the Central Election Commission, has acknowledged that the President's failure to meet the set deadline was a violation of the new election law. However he described it as a minor violation. "Of course it’s a minor violation, not so significant that it throws into question the entire process,” Tarkhnishvili suggested, adding that he would not make “pessimistic forecasts” that the entire process of electing the new Chairman might be derailed because of this failure to meet the deadline. He said “the major deadline” has been January 11, the date on which the opposition members of the CEC should have elected the new Chair. They could not manage to do so on that date, meaning that this deadline has also been violated.

Tamar Khidasheli, head of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), who was among the participants of the meeting with the President on January 11, said on January 8 that the part of the law concerning deadlines had definitely been violated. "Consultations about how to overcome this legal controversy are already being held among legal experts,” she added. No comment is being made on this issue by the President's Administration or Government.