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CEC chairs appeals and warns officials

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, February 7
The Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia delivered an open letter to Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, Davit Usupashvili, Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia and Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Prime-minister of Georgia. A copy was also sent to Archil Kbilashvili, the General Prosecutor of Georgia. The letter is written by the CEC chair Zurab Kharatishvili and concerns changes in the rules of the Supreme Election Commission of the Adjara Autonomous Republic (SEC). Kharatishvili called the changes hastened and risky.

Kharatishvili explained that on January 29, the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara adopted a law, which substantially alters the rules of composition and terms of office of the SEC, despite appeals against it from the electoral administration and civil society.

“In contrast to the established practice, the law was adopted hastily, without involving the election administration and other stakeholders, including authoritative local and international observer organizations,” the CEC chair states.

Kharatishvili also claims that the SEC members were pressured to resign by some political officials of the Adjara government.

“It is especially regrettable that Murman Dumbadze, Deputy Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia and Avtandil Beridze, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara were actively involved in these processes,” Kharatishvili underscored. He also requested that officials evaluate the mentioned issue and make a maximum effort in order to avoid a recurrence of a similar harmful precedent for democratic development. The CEC doubts the coalition wants to replace those 6 former members of the SEC with individuals favored by the Georgian Dream.

Head of the SEC, Archil Mikeladze, stated that he was pressured by Dumbadze concerning the changes.

Dumbadze and Beridze denied pressuring the SEC members. According to Beridze, Kharatishvili’s letter does not create any obligations for the Adjara Supreme Council.

“I do not know what the chair of the SEC Mikeladze said. If he states that he was under pressure he should appeal to the court, if he does not act in such a way it will be proof that Mikeladze lies. Mikeladze has never been under pressure from our side,” Beridze stated.

Beridze also states that the Adjara Supreme Council has the right to make decisions and carry out changes in the law.

“Each law that is made by the parliament or by the Adjara Supreme Council is political. In general we are related to politics and accordingly all the decisions made by us are political,” Beridze said.

Dumbadze states that the pre-term suspension of power for 6 members of the SEC was fair and not a political decision.

“Those individuals will be given the right to take part in the competition and be elected on the position again. The decision would be politically motivated if we did not give them such a right,” Dumbadze said.

Several days ago, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) and Transparency International – Georgia, appealed to the Chairman of the government of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, Archil Khabadze. They stated that improving the election system, including reforming the SEC, must occur within a unified election reform.

“Therefore, we apply to you with a request to exercise the power delegated to you by the Constitution of Adjara and return the draft law sent to you by the Supreme Court with comments,” the NGOs stated .