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Transparency in electoral reform demanded by watchdog groups

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, July 15
Four local election watchdog groups – Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association; Transparency International Georgia; New Generation-New Initiative and International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy called on parties working on amending the electoral code to provide transparency of their work, on July 13.

“We address all political parties engaged in the editorial group to promote transparency of the process, engagement of non-governmental and international organizations in it and to make decisions in consideration of voters’ interests,” a joint statement of the organizations, reads.

As the organizations’ representatives mentioned, they had such an opportunity during the previous elections but they are currently unaware of how the editorial group functions or even who comprises its membership. At the same time, they have stated that the authorities’ suggestion regarding the election environment changes are not enough and that those initiatives alone would not impose real change.

As the Member of Christian –Democratic Movement and one of the representatives of Inter-Party group, Levan Vepkhvadze told the Messenger, each issue regarding the group and its activities are known to society, “the format of the group is very clear, we are working towards an agreement and those points which were agreed between the opposition and the authorities are being drafted. It is a very technical group and the members of the group are those who signed the agreement, “ Vepkhvadze said and mentioned that when the group completes its activities, all the interested groups and organizations will be able to express their views in the September-October period, before the draft is sent for confirmation to the Parliament.

According to most of the Georgian opposition parties, those opposition representatives who agreed with the authorities suggestions have made a mistake and according to it they will achieve no progress, as the terms are only in the Governmental interest, “our colleagues lost patience when the pressure of international society on Georgian authorities to concede in this field was reaching its culmination, “ leader of Republican party , Davit Usupashvili, said. Almost all opposition groups in the country believe that the format involving the authorities and only a couple of opposition parties will be useless for real election reform in the country.

An inter-party group was set up to develop amendments to the election code based on an electoral system reform deal signed by the ruling party and part of the opposition on June 27. As it has been said the group is composed of representatives of the parties, which have joined the deal. “The aim of the group will be to jointly translate the political agreement reached into law,” Davit Bakradze, the parliamentary speaker, has stated. He also said that after preparing the draft of amendments, it would be sent, probably this summer, to the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, the Venice Commission, for legal analysis.