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NGOs will get together to ensure free elections

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, February 3
Twenty seven NGOs signed a memorandum regarding the upcoming local elections on February 2, in which they agreed to facilitate the fair and transparent conduct of the elections, use legal means to reveal and respond to any violations and inform the public about the conduct of the elections timeously and without bias.

Given the importance of the 2010 local elections for the democratic future of Georgia and its stability, the signatories of the memorandum have declared their willingness to promote a healthy electoral environment inside the country in which the elections are to be held in a free, democratic, competitive, lawful and stable manner. The memorandum outlines four main ways in which this goal will be achieved:

1) The signatories will actively cooperate with each other in the election campaign period, on election day itself and in the post-election period in order to better coordinate their efforts and secure the effective exchange, collation and dissemination of information obtained through their monitoring activities.

2) The signatories will share with foreign and international monitoring missions any information they obtain on the risks and flaws in the Georgian electoral system and the results of the monitoring they will carry out.

3) The signatories will use all legal means to detect and appropriately respond to violations and provide the public with comprehensive and objective data on said violations.

4) The signatories will establish constructive relationships with the election administration, election candidates and other stakeholders and act impartially.

Kakha Sopromadze from the Association of Free Development and Human Rights stated that there has been no coordination between NGO’s until now. "There has been a lack of coordination and collaboration among non-governmental organisations until today. Our working together in this direction, based on this memorandum, will be significant and useful for holding free and democratic elections in the country,” Sopromadze said.

The Georgian opposition have already expressed their positive attitude to the memorandum. "Such an attitude from the NGOs towards the elections is really appreciated. If the rest of Georgian society can be mobilised to ensure the holding of just elections this will change the election environment only positively,” MP Jondi Baghaturia told The Messenger. The New Rights has also expressed its appreciation of the memorandum but its spokesperson Manana Nachkebia has told The Messenger that, "I can say that this is a positive step, but it is difficult to say whether the NGOs will be able to do what they say they will do while we have such an unpredictable Government. In general, the holding of free and democratic elections mostly depends on the Government,” Nachkebia said.

The Conservative Party has also responded positively to the memorandum. Kakha Kukava has told The Messenger, "holding free elections is in our party’s interests. We will meet and collaborate with the NGOs.”