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Election code amended to delay by-elections

By Londa Mindiashvili
Tuesday, August 11
The Georgian Parliament held an extraordinary session on August 10. MPs adopted changes in the election code which will enable forthcoming by-elections to be delayed. In accordance with these changes the Parliamentary by-elections in the Chugureti, Ozurgeti and Gurjaani districts will now be held on May 30, 2010 rather than September 27, 2009, presumably on the same day as local government elections.

These amendments were the initiative of the Christian Democratic Movement. The 6th and 9th paragraphs of clause 106 of the election code will be modified by the addition of new terms under which Parliamentary elections can be held. The changes concern only the Chugureti, Ozurgeti and Gurjaani districts and not by-elections in general.

MPs explain that the by-elections are being delayed until the new election code is adopted. They suppose this will be ready in a few months. The agreement between the ruling party and the opposition on this issue has been noted. MP from the ruling party Nugzar Tsiklauri says that this agreement alone cannot change the whole political environment but it is an important step forward in the relations between the ruling party and the opposition. “The initiative came from our opposition colleagues and we shared it,” he said.

Leader of the Parliamentary majority Petre Tsiskarishvili stated yesterday that the ruling party will try to ensure that the by-elections will be inclusive and every political party will take part in them. They will all do their best to create a healthy election environment, he said.

Part of the Parliamentary opposition has already expressed its view on changing the date of the by-elections. They do not consider that the change is reasonable because it will prolong the processes of electing new MPs without providing any substantial benefits in return. They do not believe the election code can be draw up in such a short period of time. However Vice-Speaker Levan Vephkhvadze is content with the change. “We can say without any hesitation that the authorities have promised us that we will have a new election code in the near future. The authorities have firmly said that the by-elections will not be held until the new election code is adopted. I think the fact that we will have a new election code is more important than that of prolonging the vacancies,” Vephkhvadze stated.

The radical opposition have said they are not planning to take part in the by-elections. Nestan Kirtadze from the Labour Party has told The Messenger that her party is not going to take part because of the unhealthy election environment. “We will not take part in any elections called by the present Government. Every election will be like the election of 2008 in which the majority of votes were cast by imprisoned people. It was a Prison Election. Taking part in this sort of election has no purpose,” she said.

Another radical opposition leader, Tina Khidasheli from the Republican Party, was very firm in talking to The Messenger. “Which by-elections are we talking about? The ones where we do not know when they will be held? Let’s talk about it in Spring,” stated Khidasheli.

The next sitting of Parliament will be held on September 1.