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Some Georgians will observe the Ukrainian elections

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, February 5
The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) in Georgia will observe the Ukrainian elections, it said in a statement late on February 3. President Mikheil Saakashvili had previously appealed to Georgians not to do so.

The President had said earlier that day that the Georgian Government would not be sending observers to the second round of the Presidential elections in Ukraine due to the “controversy” and “misunderstanding” surrounding the presence of those sent for the first round. He had also called on other Georgian observers, attending under the aegis of various international organisations, to return to Georgia. However this appeal will not be taken into consideration by ISFED.

Georgian citizens observing the first round on behalf of international organisations or international election watchdog groups had no problems receiving accreditation from the Ukrainian Central Election Commission (CEC). ISFED is the European Network of Election Monitoring Organisations (ENEMO)’s only representative in Georgia and monitored the elections on that basis. Eka Siradze, its head, stated that the organisation has an obligation to ENEMO and will not risk failing to fulfill it. “It is impossible for us to refuse ENEMO and this could cause some problems for the mission. Our observers for the second round of the Ukrainian elections have already received accreditation from the Ukrainian CEC, and all the technical details of their transportation have been arranged,” Siradze said, adding that 26 observers would be sent.

The present situation in Ukraine can be described as extremely strained. Viktor Yanukovich’s Party of the Regions has forced through changes in the law for the second round of the elections, under which local election commissions will be allowed to work even if half their members are absent by accident or design. This decision has already been opposed by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Yanukovich’s opponent in the runoff, who has called it an attempt at election falsification. “The Ukrainian Rada has made a totally unacceptable decision because Yanukovich guesses that he will not win the second round and is doing his best to falsify the results through these changes in the election code ,” Tymoshenko stated.

Yanukovich’s representatives, responding at a special briefing, suggested that Tymoshenko’s supporters had been intending to disrupt the election by refusing to take part in the election commissions. “This decision has been made so that the election can proceed without obstacles, even if half the members of the local commissions do not participate in their activities,” Yanukovich’s representative said. Ukraine’s Central Election Commission is appealing to both sides not to strain the situation more or disrupt the elections.