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Venice Commission examines Georgia's election codes and processes

Friday, October 28
Within the scope of a two-day working visit to Georgia, the members of the Venice Commission held their first meeting with the members of parliamentary majority. The parties discussed the new draft Election Code prepared under agreement between government and opposition. The parties touched upon the topics concerning the election districts, independent candidates, granting voting rights to prison inmates, refinement of certain parts of the text in the Election Code and other issues.

“It is very important that the Venice Commission has been actively involved in development and refinement of election legislation, which was our initiative. This is an important step for further improvement of the document and for successful election reform,” said Akaki Minashvili, Chair of the Parliamentary Relations Committee, after the meeting.

Members of the Venice Commission held the second meeting with the members of the Drafting Committee working on the new Election Code.

The members of the Drafting Committee spoke with the guests about the signed agreement between the government and opposition parties during the working process on the Code. They also discussed changes made by the ruling party to the Election Code without the consent from the opposition, namely, the abolition of video surveillance and marking. They discussed the rights granted to Governors and Heads of local government (Gamgebeli) to participate in election campaigns and as well as for prison inmates to participate in elections. The members of the Venice Commission heard the opinions of the Drafting Committee concerning these issues.

“This is an important visit as the Venice Commission shall elaborate an objective report to improve the election environment in Georgia and on changes regarding the Election Code. At the meeting we discussed all issues, including the agreement that was signed between government and opposition, which is a step forward, but which is not enough,” said Mamuka Katsitadze, member of the Drafting Committee and representative of New Rights.

The following were representatives of the Drafting Committee: "Christian-Democrats”- Levan Vepkhvadze and Girogi Akhvlediani; the members of "National-Democratic” party- Guram Chakvadze and Giorgi Gogniashvili, and the representative of the political unity "European Democrats”. The Venice Commission met with the representatives of Parliamentary opposition and MPs presented their opinions to the members of the Commission concerning the election environment and the draft new Election Code.

According to Giorgi Akhvlediani, Chairman of Christian-Democrats, it is necessary to have video surveillance at the polling stations. He requests not to abolish marking, not to give the right to initiative groups to present their candidates and not to give the right to cast a vote to prison inmates who have committed minor crimes.

Jondi Baghaturia, leader of "Kartuli Dasi”, stated that the election environment in Georgia has worsened in terms of rigging voting lists, access to financial resources, media freedom and use of administrative resources.

Paata Davitaia, Chairman of Political Unity "European Democrats”, discussed the electoral reform process with the guests, noting that the reports of the Venice Commission will help the Georgian side to create a well-structured legislative base for the elections. This will facilitate the 2012 parliamentary elections in a more democratic environment.