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A group of NGOs release elections-related recommendations

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, May 3
A group of four NGOs – Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia), International Society for Fair elections and Democracy (ISFED), Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) and New Generation New Initiative (nGnI) have issued a list of recommendations needed for creating a “fair electoral environment” in Georgia. According to the statement of the four NGOs, released on May 2 the areas mentioned in the list of recommendations are “essential to do a better election environment and the failure to address one of them will leave significant gaps in the framework.” The NGOs state that solving the listed issues requires “legislative improvements, as well as better enforcement and political will to conduct free and fair elections.”

Voter lists recommendations are on the top of the four NGOs recommendations list. “Accessibility of voter lists at any time and comprehensive procedure for requesting corrections – it is imperative that the voter list is permanently available on the website of a responsible agency and that interested individuals have the opportunity to double-check information and request necessary changes at any time,” the NGOs have suggested “The procedure for amending the list also requires improvement (i.e. clarification). Once improved, the procedure should be presented to the public to raise awareness about how to request changes in the list on an ongoing basis.”

According to the NGOs, currently the voter registration data is compiled by the Central Election Commission from the databases of numerous governmental agencies, which they provide in disparate and varying formats. “This results in additional work for the CEC and the problem of inaccuracies as often information across these sources is contradictory,” the NGOs statement reads “The data provided by different government agencies should be in precisely the same format to avoid these problems,” it continues. The NGOs have suggested that the government should consider locating the responsibility for maintaining the voters list within the Civil Registry.

The group of NGOs has claimed that the current rules for Majoritarian election “have significant shortfalls, as “on the one hand, the existing system unfairly distributes mandates by election district and, on the other hand, doesn’t guarantee the proportionality between a specific party’s received votes and seats in the Parliament.” NGO’s have expressed their “regret” over the fact that, despite the Georgian President’s pledge at the UN in 2009 about plans to hold direct mayoral elections in all Georgian cities, only Tbilisi elected its mayor directly in 2010.

As for electoral administration-related recommendations, the NGOs have called on the respectful agencies, to ensure “full transparency” of the CEC appointment, to increase level of trust towards the CEC by raising the threshold of decision-making on important issues to 2/3 votes, rather than simple majority and to deny election administration membership to those individuals, who committed violations in the previous elections. “Currently the method of selecting CEC members is overly politicized due to the dominance of one party in Parliament,” the NGOs statement reads. The recommendations suggest that the staffing of the election administration should be “transparent from the very beginning.” This, according to the NGOs, first of all concerns the process of the President presenting candidates to the Parliament. To accomplish this, the NGOs have suggested to make the following information accessible for the public – information on all candidates that present their candidature to the Presidential administration, information regarding the commission members who act on behalf of the President to select the most appropriate candidates and the information on the criteria that these commission members employ to choose the best candidate. “The Georgian public should be informed why one candidate was better than the others,” the NGOs statement reads.

The NGOs have called on the authorities to draw a “clear line” between the ruling party’s election campaign and the work of the government and to limit the participation of public officials in the pre-election campaign. “During the last elections there was a clear problem related to the use of administrative resources during the pre-election campaigning. The reports of both local and international observer organizations highlight the absence of a distinguishing line between the ruling party and government activity during the pre-election campaign,” the statement says.

The four NGOs have recommended the Georgian government to timely investigate violations committed during the elections and to inform the public about measures carried out against violations, as well as to establish better monitoring and oversight mechanisms concerning party financing. “Bearing in mind that financing of the pre-election campaign can have a significant influence on the outcome of the elections, it is essential to correct shortcomings in this regard and create more efficient system for thorough study of the political parties’ election campaign and annual financial records,” the NGOs have suggested. The group has also recommended restricting the introduction of changes to the electoral legislation in the period before the elections.