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Ruling majority hones election code

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, January 17
At the end of 2011 Georgian parliament hastily adopted a new election code introducing new regulations to the law regarding political organizations and new rules for the parliamentary elections in 2012. The ruling administration considers that it has now created all the conditions necessary to hold democratic and fair elections. Parliamentary opposition are keeping quiet on the matter, whereas non parliamentary opposition as well as NGOs are insisting that conditions for fair elections do not exist in the country and some of them have even gone so far as to suggest that protest rallies should be started for this reason. The amendments introduced in the last days of 2011 mainly concern the issue of financing political movements; restricting the involvement of big money in politics and its control. This is understandable when you consider how the entry of Georgian billionaire Ivanishvili to the political scene might be creating a serious challenge to the Government and causing it the utmost concern.

In short, the ruling administration has suggested new rules of the game and the situation now reads as follows: it controls the media, TV channels in particular; it controls the money operated in politics; it controls administrative resources; some other trivial as well as important factors also serve the ruling administration’s interests. Therefore the opposition claims that everything is being done to secure a ruling party victory, not just by manipulating the elections themselves but by creating favourable conditions specifically for the ruling party. Analyst Gia Khukhashvili suggests that the ruling administration is preparing for yet another special pre election operation. It has done everything to block two major factors of democratic elections. First - the free flow of information, and the other - restricting the free flow of financial resources. The opposition thinks that the results of these alleged attempts to create a “favourable election environment” are dramatic. The ruling administration essentially ignored the main proposals given by opposition parties and even rejected certain recommendations made by international bodies on how to improve the election code. Many opposition members as well as independent organizations suggest that in reality the elections environment in the country is deteriorating. Some suggest that there is a serious need to start the process of entirely revising the election code, in particular the Free Georgia opposition party headed by Kakha Kukava and Aleko Shalamberidze which are active in this direction. At the same time new opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili has several times stated that he is against any kind of public street actions.

Despite the obvious obstacles it poses to opposition parties, some analysts are even saying that the new legislation could also create certain problems for the ruling party. Needless to say though that the ruling authorities will be trying to apply these new amendments to the opposition only. As a result of the disagreement surrounding the new election code, many are asking Georgia’s western allies to pay close attention to how things develop to help ensure that fair elections are held for all.