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Yet more on the votersí lists

By Messenger Staff
Friday, April 16
Some days ago the Central Election Commission presented the results of the monitoring of the votersí lists by various political parties. This action was designed to increase public confidence in the votersí lists and the fairness of the elections fought with those lists. However although the CEC presented facts and figures the opposition are still talking about irregularities in the voting lists and saying the CEC has not taken sufficient measures to correct these.

Of course everyone acknowledges that the accuracy of the votersí lists is the most crucial factor in the elections. The opposition, in particular the non-Parliamentary opposition, think that the lists contain many people who should not be there and this will enable the ruling party to rig the elections. They claim that several hundred thousand people are falsely registered as voters, and these additional votes will be added in some way to the genuine votes for the ruling party's candidates in the various polls.

As is known the authorities gave the opposition parties a chance to monitor the lists themselves. This was a very profitable PR step by the Government. The West would see by this that the Government wanted to hold fair elections and the opposition would also have to take responsibility for any errors in the lists. Some opposition parties agreed to cooperate in the checking process and received money for doing so. Some refused however, stating that it was impossible to check the lists under the terms the Government set.

During the CEC's presentation of the corrected lists it was stated that up to 80,000 corrections were made and there are more than 3.5 million voters in Georgia today. Some analysts and opposition party representatives however state that this figure is very much exaggerated. They think 3.5 million may in fact be the total number of current residents of Georgia, and all people under 18 should therefore be subtracted from this number. There are certain difficulties of this type with the lists as CEC Chairman Zurab Kharatishvili himself admitted. He said that many people have left Georgia but are still Georgian citizens so it would be illegal to take them out of the votersí lists. The exact number and identities of those who have left Georgia is not known as the Border Protection Department only possesses data processed since January 1 2008. Information about those who left the country before this date is unavailable. Kharatishvili says that finalising the lists would take 2 or 3 years work and be quite expensive.

There are indeed many things which prevent a definitive list being compiled in a short time. The current Georgian ID cards are about to be replaced by biometric IDs at a cost of approximately GEL 10 million. A new census also needs to be conducted. The house numbering system also needs to be changed, as problems in this direction exist. There are some other problems too. More than 300,000 people donít actually live in the places where they are registered to vote, in particular in the provinces. Kharatishvili mentioned that preliminary registration is one way to eliminate irregularities, but this has not been introduced, and it is the responsibility of the Government, not the opposition, to do this.

So the problem of the votersí list remains and it is clear that if they lose the elections (and there is a strong possibility they will) the opposition will blame their defeat on the irregularities in the lists. Protests will doubtless follow. Losers of elections always look for excuses, but it dos not help to give them one before they start.