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The election campaign can now begin

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, March 31
President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili has finally declared officially that the local elections will be held on May 30, as has long been supposed. “According to Article 1043 of the Georgian Constitution and Article 12,913 of the Election Code the local government elections will be held on May 30. Elections will not be held in the Eredvi, Kurta, Tighvi, Azhara and Akhalgori municipalities,” said the President’s administration.

The opposition have often accused the Government of conducting an unofficial election campaign, the expenses for which do not have to be declared, before the elections have been called or candidates nominated. The Christian Democratic Movement in particular has frequently accused the Government of conducting such an unaccountable campaign, saying that Gigi Ugulava, the probable Government candidate for Tbilisi Mayor, began his campaign long ago and has therefore gained an unfair advantage. Now the declaration of the election date has been made, all the parties wishing to contest the elections can officially start their campaigns and expenses can be officially calculated.

Members of the National Council (comprising the Conservatives, People’s Party, Movement for Fair Georgia, Christian Georgia, Party of the Future and the Patriots Party), have made strong comments about the date being declared at this late stage. Zurab Noghaideli, leader of the Movement for Fair Georgia, said that: "If Saakashvili thinks that because of this the opposition will say they we have no time and so cannot campaign, he is mistaken. We are not going to just sit in a corner and observe.” Koba Davitashvili, leader of the People’s Party, said: "this Government is doing its best to prevent the opposition undertaking a proper election campaign and presenting their plans. If he continues doing so, and stretches out his hand to falsify the elections, we will break his hand.”

Other opposition parties are concentrating on what they will do in their campaign. "We are not going to follow the Olympic principle, in which taking part is more important than winning. Our leader Irakli Alasania has a very high rating and is able to win the Tbilisi Mayoral election if the greater part of the voters turn out,” Tina Khidasheli, from the Alliance for Georgia said. The Parliamentary minority Christian Democrats (CDM) stated that they will do their best during the next two months to present their programme to the Georgian people. "We will use all means to explain to the Georgian people why they should support us. We will give them our plan and explain how it works to them,” Giorgi Akhvlediani, from the CDM, said.

A Central Elections Commission (CEC) working group has worked out recommendations for holding future elections and delivered these to Parliament’s inter-party group on this question on March 30. The group consists of nine members, four from the Government and five from different opposition parties. The CEC group recommendations are that all the materials used during the elections, such as ballot papers, result sheets, campaign literature etcetera should be stored in an archive, that people who want to see the videos taken in polling stations on election day should be allowed to see as much as they like and not only 15 minutes footage as at present and all election precincts should be equipped with video cameras. The inter-party group has already discussed these recommendations and responded.

”The CEC will make a decision on this based on our response. If they do not agree a course of action, the matter will be discussed in Parliament again and some changes will be made to the law if needed,” Guram Chakhvadze, the head of the Parliamentary inter-party group, said.