The crucial issues of voter registration and fair elections
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, August 2On August 1 the union of six opposition parties called "Opposition Six" once again called on the Government to organize voter registration using biometric ID cards to ensure fair and unbiased elections. The opposition leaders presented the financial estimates of the Smart-Mathic Company during the press conference, stating that complete registration of voters would be possible before the next elections, within four to six months and for a price tag of 8 million dollars.
"Registration of voters by biometric data is ten times less expensive and five times faster than the deadlines and expenditures calculated by the Government. It means that voter lists can be ready six months before the next elections. Today, on August 1st, 2011, the Government has begun issuing biometric ID cards, so it is the government's project," said Koba Davitashvili, leader of People's Party. According to the union's representatives, if the Government refuses to register voters using biometric data, it will prove they are not going to hold unbiased and fair elections.
While making statements and suggestions for the authorities on election procedures using biometric passports, some representatives of Opposition Six did not expect a positive response from the authorities and have prepared what action they will take when they receive a negative answer from the Government. "Today we have again suggested that the authorities hold elections using biometric IDs, which is both a timelier and less costly solution. If they refuse--and I am sure they will refuse to correct the election lists--it will be a sign they have no political will to carry out fair elections," said Zviad Dzidziguri, leader of the Conservative Party. He stated that in this case Opposition Six will use a "universal formula" meaning "elections are won by the voters and not money", in other words the group will activate voters to ensure free elections are held, putting political pressure on the government.
The Government seeks different goals with very different means, stating that political agreement on this issue has already been reached with the opposition parties and that no changes are practically possible. Moreover, several meetings of the Electoral Reform Working Editorial Group have already been held. This Group is composed of authorities and the representatives of opposition parties which signed the memorandum with the government on election reforms, mainly the New Rights and Christian-Democrats. According to the representative of New Rights, Mamuka Katsitadze, "Currently there are several important issues on the agenda of the Working Group and as a result of attendance by International organizations, doubts about closed meetings will be addressed” declared Katsitadze.
Formulating agreed legislative regulations and deciding on structures and functions of commissions created to work on electoral codes are being discussed, according to him. For example, how a media coalition shall be involved in the Commission of Media Monitoring is on the agenda, as well as how four NGOs will be involved to check voter lists. According to Katsitadze, the changes will be initiated during a session in September and possibly adopted in October.