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By-elections to be held in spring 2010

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, August 5
The Government and the Parliamentary opposition have agreed to hold the Parliamentary by-elections in the Chughureti district of Tbilisi and the towns of Ozurgeti and Gurjaani in May 2010, on the same day as the local elections. These by-elections were initially scheduled to be held on September 27, but the Parliamentary minority Christian-Democratic Movement asked that they be held after the adoption of a new election code.

Parliament Speaker David Bakradze, who met opposition MPs to discuss the issue on August 3, said holding the by-elections under the terms of the new election code was a “logical decision.” He said it was a necessary precondition for the process of democratisation. “Everyone shared the idea that holding elections under a new election administration and new election code is in the interest of continuing the democratisation of the country. This opinion was shared and it is very logical,” the Parliament Chairman said after the meeting.

The Parliamentary minority members have said that one of the arguments for postponing the by-elections was an agreement reached about special precincts. According to Vice Speaker of Parliament and Christian Democrat Levan Vephkhvadze, a group working on the new election code has already agreed to ban special precincts, at which the police, military etcetera set up their own internal polling stations with their own staff, in single-member constituencies. Vephkhvadze noted that “usually the National Movement hopes it can win the elections” by creating special precincts. The MP said that in Chugureti district alone, 2 special precincts serving 3,000 voters on average could be opened.

While the Parliamentary opposition has praised the decision to postpone the by-elections some of the non-Parliamentary opposition leaders have criticised it. Leader of the Movement for Fair Georgia Zurab Noghaideli has said that by postponing the by-elections the Parliamentary majority and minority have taken an “interesting, unprecedented and dangerous” decision. “When, a couple of days ago, the by–elections were appointed, the Government and the Parliamentary minority knew very well that no new election code was in force and no new election administration existed. Despite this both of them, as well as the Movement for Fair Georgia, registered to participate in the by-elections. This created panic among them and thus they took the unprecedented decision to postpone the elections,” Noghaideli said. Noghaideli, a former Prime Minister under Saakashvili, stated that the Movement for Fair Georgia would try to force the authorities to hold elections before spring, “in order to save Georgia.”

Some non-Parliamentary opposition representatives who had previously refused to participate in the by-elections in the current election environment have now said they will take specific decisions after seeing how the election code and administration change. Manana Nachkhebia from the New Rights told The Messenger that the by-elections cannot have a significant impact on the composition of the Parliament, but it is positive that they will be held parallel with the local elections after the election code is changed. Nachkhebia said this decision was made as a result of pressure not only from international organisations but also the non-Parliamentary opposition’s continual rallies outside Parliament.