Changes in the Election Administration and its Potential Impact on the Upcoming Local Self-Government Elections in Georgia
Old Administration in a New Form?
In spite of the fact that the latest Election Code envisages the broader involvement of civil society and opposition party representatives in the CEC administration, there are number of important factors, which suggest that the new legislation is designed to reform the CEC only nominally. Moreover, despite the April 19 Agreement, there is still no political will in Georgia to bring about significant changes in the CEC administration.
Before the recent amendments were made to the Election Code, between the periods of March 5th-May 14th, the CEC underwent a reorganization process. The process included the establishment of new structural bodies on the one hand, and the redistribution of human resources on the other. The civil society and opposition body representatives linked the rushed structural changes in the CEC undertaken before the electoral reforms to the ruling party’s attempt to maintain its influence over the CEC. International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy (ISFED) stated that the whole process lacked legitimacy considering the absence of members appointed by the opposition during the reorganization process and the fact that the commission only comprised of the members appointed either “on a professional basis” or by the Georgian Dream party. According to the opposition parties, the government tried to take advantage of the time frame before the implementation of the April 19 Agreement and strengthen the so-called “clan” in CEC, which is in fact behind the election processes and organizes electoral fraud.
Besides, in an open competition announced after the resignation of the CEC Chairperson, Tamar Zhvania, the selection commission supported the candidates that were acting members of the CEC at that time. It is worth mentioning that the aforementioned candidates were not supported by the selection commission members representing non-governmental organizations. One of the commission members, Giorgi Kldiashvili, who is an executive director at the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), talked about the commission’s position being agreed upon in advance.
The aforementioned factors lead us to assume that despite legislative changes envisaged by the April 19 Agreement, the ruling party is not planning on giving up its influence over CEC and still tries to maintain its existing leverage.