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Political parties start working on Election Code

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, March 19
A group consisting of several political forces has started working on reforming the Georgian Election Code. Opposition parties and the ruling party, which had earlier in February signed the Code of Conduct outlining the general rules of conduct to be followed while working on the Election Code, held their first meeting at the office of the National Democratic Institute on Tuesday. The representatives of the National Movement, the Christian Democratic Party, the Democratic Party, We Ourselves, the National Democratic Party, Georgian Troupe and the Industrialists agreed on organizational issues related to the work of the group.

According to the participants of the meeting the parties have agreed that each session of the group will be chaired by someone from a different signatory party. The leader of the Georgian Troupe Jondi Baghaturia said the sides have agreed to discuss every new proposal at the next session. “This will give us a chance to analyze the proposals,” Baghaturia noted. He said the rule on how decisions will be made is yet to be agreed. He told The Messenger this issue will also be discussed at the next session of the group.

Government representatives have said that the group’s work will help ensure free and fair elections. Parliament Speaker David Bakradze said on Tuesday that the next election will be held according to “high standards” due to the efforts of the political forces working on the Election Code. “We think that Georgia needs a more democratic, well organized election code and election environment in order to be in full readiness for local elections in 2010,” Bakradze noted.

Some opposition parties remain skeptical about the group. Nestan Kirtadze, a member of the Labour Party, which first joined the group but withdrew before it met, said they withdrew for political reasons. “When foreign officials supporting the Government say that the election code is being prepared for the elections of 2013, the Labour Party cannot remain part of the agreement to undertake this work. No one can stop the will of the Georgian people. Georgian citizens’ demand is that this Government resign,” Kirtadze said. She noted however that there is still a chance that the Labour Party will join the group. “As soon as snap Presidential and Parliamentary elections is on the agenda, the Labour Party will rejoin without giving it a second thought. We will share our opinions about the Election Code amendments with our colleagues. The new election code should provide a basis for holding free elections,” Kirtadze stated.

Manana Nachkhebia from the New Rights Party, which is also not participating in the Election Code amendment process, said that her party refused to join the group because of “bad experience” in the past. “We were represented in Parliament for quite a long time and we have bad experience of the Government and opposition agreeing on an issue and then everything happening in favour of the Government. There is an expression Giga Bokeria uses a lot: “we agreed that we could not agree” I am sure that in this case too, the political forces who are sitting at one table will agree that they cannot agree. New Rights does not want to repeat the old mistakes which have brought no results,” Nachkhebia told The Messenger.

“We explained the amendments we think need to be made to the Election Code a month ago. We also said then that none of them will serve any purpose while Saakashvili is still President and Merabishvili is running the elections. It is possible to hold free elections even under the present code, but the only way to hold normal elections will be for this Government to resign,” Nachkhebia noted.

Most party representatives and political analysts agree that the main amendment which is needed is ensuring parity of representation for the qualified political parties in the Central Election Commission and District and Precinct Election Commissions. “I would like to see a change in the composition of the CEC administration. We should go back to the parity system. Instead of the one party system we have now, it would be better to see several parties represented in the election commissions,” political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze said. Meanwhile Industry will Save Georgia and the New Rights Party have demanded that a new voters list be drawn up.

The next session of the group is scheduled for Friday.