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Paradise lost

By Messenger Staff
Friday, January 15
The Presidentís nominations for Chair of the CEC have removed any illusions the opposition might have had that Georgia is a paradise of democracy and free and fair elections, everything in fact which they continually say it is not. What the opposition expected we do not know, but the nature of the nominations and the way the opposition have handled this issue are all too familiar.

The opposition live in an illusionary and romantic world, expecting concessions from the administration on different issues when they have no power to enforce them. For instance, the opposition had the illusion that the President and his administration would resign when they saw hundreds of thousands of people protesting against them in the streets. The authorities simply got on with their job in a very pragmatic way, making occasional promises which never materialised, knowing that as long as they hold the levers of power there is a very little an opposition can do to bring them to account.

Recently the opposition hailed the amendments in the elections code concerning the nomination of the Central Election Commission Chair. The candidates would be nominated by NGOs, the President's role would be limited to selecting three of these candidates to present for election and the opposition members of the CEC would then select their most desired candidate from these three. On paper this is a perfectly good scheme, but there is one detail the opposition failed to take into consideration. Some of the NGOs in Georgia are not really nongovernmental organisations but Governmental nongovernmental organisations. It is a well established practice throughout the world for governments to establish 'NGOs' which actually support the Government in a disguised way. The candidates for CEC Chair submitted to the President included people nominated by Governmental nongovernmental organisations, supportive of the existing administration, and these are the ones who have been selected. What else should have been expected?

One of the three candidates is Levan Tarkhnishvili, a former CEC Chair who the opposition accused of rigging the 2008 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. This man would not have been selected as a candidate under any other system. But now the Government claims that the democratic procedure demanded by the opposition has been followed, and it is not proved that all the nominees are Government supporters though the opposition proves they are. The opposition is very angry, and one opposition leader, Gia Tsagareishvili, has said that the President has nominated three Tarkhnishvilis. Some opposition members however say that such an outcome could and should have been predicted.

One of the leaders of the Conservatives, Kakha Kukava, considers that all hopes that the forthcoming elections might be fair and just have now been frustrated. It is obvious that the authorities do not want to give up power through elections. If Saakashvili wants a revolution on May 31 he will get one, says Kukava. Meanwhile the administration plays its game faultlessly. The final choice of CEC Chair belongs to the opposition. If it makes a choice this means it agrees with the rules of the game set by the President. If it does not, the Chair will be elected by Parliament on or before January 21, and the opposition blamed for the outcome.

The opposition parties represented on the Central Election Commission are the Republicans, Conservatives, Labour, Industrialists, Christian Democrats and We Ourselves. By the time this editorial comes to you their decision should have been taken, and these parties will have to bear the consequences.