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Elections 2012: Are Georgians living abroad at a disadvantage?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, September 6
NGOs and civil society representatives have voiced a special demand concerning Georgians living abroad. According to them, current Georgian citizens living abroad should be able to take part in the parliamentary elections either on September 29 or 30.

Parliamentary elections will be held in Georgia on Monday, October 1. This day is a national day-off in Georgia. However, opposition representatives, NGOs and other experts believe that holding elections on a Monday will be a problem for many Georgians living abroad.

The appeal, sent by the NGOs to the chair of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Zurab Kharatishvili, argues that the CEC should protect the fundamental election rights of Georgian citizens who are currently living outside the country.

“The CEC has the power to specify voting terms and its procedures; if Georgian citizens are not able to take part in the parliamentary elections on October 1, the CEC can express its goodwill and allow them the opportunity to vote either on September 29 or 30 which are days off,” the appeal reads.

The document was signed by 32 individuals, including public defenders, representatives of various NGOs and journalists.

Regardless, it appears that the CEC is not going to take the appeal into consideration. According to the statement made by the spokesperson of the electoral body, Eka Azarashvili, parliamentary elections will be held on October 1 in Georgia and for those Georgians living abroad as well.

“The day of the election is chosen by the president and is defined by the Georgian Constitution. We cannot change the date, it does not depend on us,” Azarashvili said.

Based on the Georgian Ambassador to France, Mamuka Kudava, holding elections on a Monday will not hinder the participation of Georgians who are abroad in the election process. According to Kudava, anyone can come to the polling station in the morning or in the evening to their cast vote. However, Kudava explained that Georgians residing illegally in foreign countries will not be permitted to vote in this election.

According to the chair of the Georgian Greens Movement, Nino Chkhobadze, a precedent that saw the CEC change the date of elections has already been established and thus, the same could be done concerning Georgians living abroad today.

“The election date was changed for Georgian soldiers who are serving in Afghanistan. They will vote on September 23. We have appealed to the CEC to do the same concerning all the Georgians who are living abroad now,” Chkhobadze said.

Opposition representatives have criticized the official's statements concerning the fact. According to representative of the Georgian Dream, Davit Usupashvili, the government is not being fair with regard to Georgians living abroad.

Usupashvili underscored that the authorities “deliberately” have not addressed and improved the shortcomings in the election lists of those Georgians who are abroad currently. He states that the government needs to “obscure the voters’ lists” in order to falsify the elections.

Usupashviili also mentioned that the government’s attitude towards Georgians living illegally abroad is also unacceptable.

“Georgian legislation does not prohibit Georgian citizens who are living abroad illegally to vote in the elections. It is unclear why the government is trying to seize their right to vote when the same government has granted voting rights to criminals who are in prisons,” Usupashvili said.