IATF discourages government dismissals during campaign period
By Salome Modebadze
Friday, June 1In order to ensure a free environment for the 2012 parliamentary elections, it is unacceptable and illegal to fire public servants due to their political views or the views of their family members, the Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections (IATF) announced on Thursday.
However, IATF member and Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Eka Zguladze explained that the dismissal of Maia Miminoshvili from the directorship of the National Examination Centre (NAEC) is not an example of a politically-motivated firing. Zguladze maintained that in situations where an individual holding a political post is in principle disagreement with the department head about policy, “cardinal changes” are necessary.
According to the Ministry of Education and Science, Minister Dimitri Shashkin made the decision to dismiss Miminoshvili for her “principle incompatibility” with the policies of the Ministry during the reform process.
Zguladze asked that government bodies and high school principals not dismiss employees during the election campaign because civil society groups connect these decisions to politics. Emphasizing that a dismissal should only be based on internal policy conflicts at an agency, not on the political sympathies or antipathies expressed by an individual outside their official duties, the IATF recommended that government departments not trim their staff at this time.
As Zguladze explained, their decisions are often perceived as political by the public, and despite legitimate dismissal processes it is not always possible to determine the motivation behind a firing.
She confirmed that public servants from any Ministry – with the exception of employees of the Ministries of Internal Affair and Defence, the Prosecutor’s Office and Intelligence Services - may enjoy the right to openly declare their political views and participate in election-related activities, as long as they are not performing official duties.
Recently, there have been high-profile cases in which a teacher's dismissal is connected with their political preferences. Minister of Education and Science Dimitri Shashkin denied these accusations, and affirmed that school principals do not plan to cut their staff at this time.