NGO demands elections move up to May
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
FRiday, February 17
Georgian non-governmental organization, New Generation–New Initiative, has demanded that Parliamentary elections be held in May of this year, rather than the planned date in October. An action will be brought to the Constitutional court to request the change, the organization's head, Mikheil Devdariani, stated on Thursday.
Devdariani alleges that holding the elections in the fall is a violation of the constitution, as it requires Parliament to work for four years and six months instead of the allowed four years. He also says that there are violations concerning presidential terms. He explained that the presidential term is determined to be 5 years, though by recent amendments to the constitution, the incumbent president will have been in office for 5 years and 10 months.
Majority representative Goka Gabashvili responded that the demands are inadequate and that the Constitutional Court would confirm this. He is certain that the elections will be held in October, saying, "It is not right, from the politician's side, to talk about what decision might be made by the court; however, the terms are foreseen through the law and I do think the Constitutional Court [will not make] such changes".
Statements made by both government and opposition representatives reveal that neither side is in favour of holding pre-term elections, with the opposition claiming that May elections are only in the government's interest.
Levan Vepkhvadze of the Christian-Democrats went so far as to suggest that New Generation–New Initiative and other "organizations voicing such initiatives obey the authorities' will," as only the ruling United National Movement (UNM) is prepared for an election in May.
Fellow opposition MP, Guram Chakhvadze, noted that in the event of a pre-term election, the voters’ list verification commission will be unable to complete their work. "One million GEL was allotted by the president’s decision from the budget for the commission, and if Mikheil Saakashvili wants to just toss money around, that is illogical," he asserted.
Constitutional expert Avtandil Drmetrashvili was more interested in the suggested changing of the presidential elections, saying that such a move would cancel those constitution reforms passed in 2009-2010, as they are only scheduled to come into force once a new President is inaugurated in 2013. As for holding the parliamentary elections in May, Demetrashvili believes that this would cause fewer problems, but still require changes to the Constitution.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) does not foresee any serious issues in case of new election dates. CEC chairperson Zurab Kharatishvili says that the commission is getting ready for the elections in October, but it could be ready for early elections if they are within the law. Kharatishvili says that New Generation–New Initiative's request is under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional court, and so assessing it is beyond his capabilities. The CEC will act according to the court’s decision.
As analyst Malkhaz Chemia told The Messenger, holding elections in May would be a survival tactic for the UNM, "As formation and refining of opposition is a long and difficult process. Thus, by holding [elections] in May instead of October, the opposition would be in trouble. There would be a third pseudo-opposition centre created in this case by the majority, and at the same time some more tendentious amendments would be added to the law. The opposition will have no time to protest". Chemia also mentioned that the international community may attempt to dissuade the authorities from holding elections in May, and the opposition should be alert to this.