Where Will Army Vote?
By Levan Khutsishvili
Monday, October 15
On October 13, Ministry of Defense of Georgia responded to the statements of united opposition “Power is in Unity” about the participation of soldiers in presidential elections. According to the united opposition, the government artificially creates problems for the armed forces to participate in the presidential elections, as they believe that Georgian army will not support Salome Zurabishvili because of her statements about Russia-Georgia war in August 2008 (Salome Zurabishvili stated that Georgia started the war). As representatives of “Power is in Unity” said, the government will abolish special election stations in the division places of soldiers and they will only have an opportunity to vote according to their registration place, that will cause problems.
In Ministry of Defense say, that opposition is trying to discredit the Georgian army by spreading false information.
"Despite the extensive and exhaustive explanation from the Public Relations officer of General Staff, it is very regrettable that some political parties are spreading false information that the military personnel will not be allowed to vote on October 28. It unfortunate that this statement is based on the issue of abolition of the special places for voting in the army, which is the requirement of almost all parties, local and international qualified observation organizations as this type of polling station was considered as an instrument for influencing the election. This again proves that the political party is far from recognizing the consensus and decisions based on democracy. Once again, we will explain that the abolition of Special voting stations has no negative impact on military servicemen, in terms of voting, because as a result of the amendment, military servicemen vote in accordance with the place of registration. While those employees whose conditions of service or health status require their presence on the day of the election at a different address, which belongs to another electoral district, votes on the polling station near the location of the dislocation, and part of them can vote using the mobile ballot box. Furthermore, military personnel usually have free weekends and this will coincide with the day of the election. In addition, I would like to remind you that the territorial principle is taken into consideration and those militaries who have dislocated far away from the place of registration remain at the base, and the election agenda is designed so that all the military servicemen can participate in the elections. Consequently, it was the merit of such a policy that in 2016 almost all the employees took part in the elections according to the place of registration. As for the October 28 presidential elections, six people will participate in the other election precinct, however, 6 days before the elections, the Ministry has a deadline to apply to the voting stations about compulsory military servicemen. In spite of this possibility, all persons who live far away from the place of dislocation will be discharged and they will be free to participate in the elections. Consequently, the previous government was implementing the harmful practice when the elections were held in barracks and servicemen were voting under pressure. Today it is impossible to influence the decisions of servicemen. The Georgian Armed Forces represent the cornerstone of the statehood of democratic Georgia and the army belongs to all citizens. Therefore, the army is a neutral institution, and any attempts to involve them in political speculations are principally unacceptable and doomed, "– is said in the statement of Ministry of Defense.
Former Minister of Defense, Dimitri Shashkin, who now represents the united opposition, answered the statement of the Ministry of Defense, saying that representatives of Ministry of defense should not be making political statements.