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New Chairman tries to comfort opposition

By Messenger Staff
Friday, January 29
Newly elected Chairman of the Central Election Commission Zurab Kharatishvili is trying to gain the confidence of the opposition representatives on the commission and has proposed several initiatives designed to meet their longstanding grievances. This action is a tacit acknowledgment that the Central Election Commission has become one of the most important political battlegrounds in Georgia. Control of the elections is obviously a very powerful advantage, both the opposition and the Government understand that and the latter does not intend to give up this advantage. That is why all kinds of manipulations took place to ensure that the opposition elected the Government's most desired candidate.

As Comrade Stalin once said, it does not matter who votes and for whom, what matters is who counts. Kharatishvili will count, that is what he was appointed for. However he is trying to present himself as neutral, and that is why he has made proposals to the opposition members of the commission. The opposition have been invited to participate directly in the process of checking the voters lists and participate in the resolution of disputes. The Chairmanship of the group which will check the voters lists has been offered to the Republican Party and membership of this group was offered to opposition representatives, members of the general public and NGOs. Kharatishvili thinks that there will therefore be no mistrust of the accepted voters lists.

However, at the same time the various parties represented on the CEC are expected to nominate their representatives for a full five year term and not change them. This proposal is more problematic. The CEC presently consists of a certain number of professionals elected for five years and political party representatives who can be changed at any time. Putting these two categories of member on an equal footing, with the same responsibilities as well as rights, is supposedly the idea behind Kharatashvili's proposal. Some analysts however think that the move is designed to create a situation where these representatives receive certain advantages and privileges they would not want to give up, thus bringing them into the orbit of the ruling party and reducing their desire to challenge it. However this is only a supposition.

Officials want to create a situation similar to the one in which the chairman was elected. NGOs nominated 12 candidates and the President picked 3 to go forward for election by the opposition. On the surface this is fine, but several of the 12 NGOs candidates were suggested by 'Governmental non-governmental organisations' which do the will of the administration. The President picked the three of these most desirable for the ruling party. So the facade was democratic but the essence not.

The opposition is not satisfied. Christian Democrat MP Levan Vephkhvadze has said that it would have been better for the Deputy Chairman and Secretary of the CEC to come from opposition parties. He also suggested installing video cameras in all the polling stations. Labour's Giorgi Gugava has said that all those shown to have falsified elections should be removed from the CEC and it should be staffed on the parity principle so that the National Movement does not have a majority. New Rights member Manana Nachkebia thinks it wrong that members of parties which refuse to enter Parliament have been ousted from the CEC.

The opposition reaction demonstrates that they consider this latest proposal a new PR stunt designed to show Westerners a facade of democracy. Therefore the opposition will not accept the forthcoming elections as the triumph of justice. Ruling party representatives think that the opposition is preparing the ground for making protests because they are sure that they will lose the elections. However this has been said before, and the ruling party has made changes of its own regardless.