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The News in Brief

Friday, May 23
Venice Commission delegation visits Georgia

A delegation representing the Venice Commission has arrived in Tbilisi to learn about the state of Georgiaís State Constitutional Commission. The European Commission for Democracy through Law - better known as the Venice Commission - is the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters.

The aim of the Venice Commissionís visit is to get introduced to the work of Georgiaís State Constitutional Commission and share advice and expertise.

Head of Georgiaís State Constitutional Commission David Usupashvili said the Commission wanted a better Constitution so people could understand it better.

"At this point we plan to listen to ideas of Commission members and anyone else interested. For this, experts are present in the form of heads of the Venice Commission and they will work together with us,Ē Usupashvili said.

He said the State Commission had not made any decisions yet, as recommendations and problems were only being discussed at the current time. (Agenda.Ge)

Meningitis closes schools and kindergartens across Georgia

A viral disease is swarming through Georgian schools and kindergartens, forcing education institutions throughout the country to temporarily close.

Schools and kindergartens across Georgia have been suspended after increasing reports of children suffering from viral meningitis in the past few days.

As of May 21, 142 cases of viral meningitis had been reported in Georgia, said Health Minister Davit Sergeenko at a press conference.

He said the youngest patient was two years old and the oldest 34.

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health made a joint decision to suspend a selection of classes from May 22. Those affected by the school closures are all kindergarten children and all pupils up to Grade 7 level.

At this stage classes will resume on Tuesday 27 May.

The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said viral meningitis was often less severe than bacterial meningitis however it could be fatal depending on the virus causing the infection, the personís age and general health.

Georgian authorities said they would reevaluate the situation at the beginning of next week. If deemed necessary, further classes would be suspended.

Health Minister Sergeenko claimed this type of disease did not have a specific vaccine. He said the only effective way to prevent the disease was to have a high standard of personal hygiene. (Agenda.Ge)

Georgian Public Broadcaster has new board Chairman

The Board of Trustees of the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) has elected a new chairman. Seven new members of the Board, who were elected by Parliament, held their first sitting and elected Grigol Gogelia as chairman with five votes against two.

Current legislation stated Gogelia will hold this post for three years. Gogelia worked at the GPB Advisory Council from September to December in 2013.

Georgian Dream, the Parliamentary majority, presented Gogelia as a candidate of the Board of Trustees. As the Law on Broadcasting stated, the GPB Board must be staffed by nine members. However ongoing controversy surrounding the GPB Board meant the current Board members continued serving despite Parliament appointing a new Board.

On May 2, the Georgian Parliament adopted amendments to the Law on Broadcasting, in which the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) became two-chambered. This meant the current Board would remain within the broadcaster as a monitoring council and the new Board, which was approved by the Parliament, would have control over all other functions.

The monitoring council was eligible to provide the new Board with recommendations on different issues. The new Board members would have a 20 percent higher salary than the monitoring council.

The amendments were drawn up in a way that enabled the continuation of the GPB Board reformation, while an order of the Constitutional Court to keep the current Board was executed.

Current Board members were expected to be dismissed as the new Board was instated but the Constitutional Court upheld its lawsuit against Parliament. (Agenda.Ge)

CEC Upholds Registration of GD's Rustavi, Poti Mayoral Candidates

The Central Election Commission (CEC) voted narrowly in favor of keeping the Georgian Dream mayoral candidates for cities of Poti and Rustavi on ballot papers for the June 15 local elections, rejecting an appeal asking for the revocation of registration of GDís candidates on the grounds of their failure to meet a two-year residency requirement.

The CEC ruled that GDís Rustavi mayoral candidate Davit Jikiaís 180-day stay in Britain for studying and GDís Poti mayoral candidate Irakli Kakuliaís residency in Kazakhstan in 2009-2012, where he worked, do not represent a violation of a requirement according to which a candidate should live permanently in Georgia for the last two years prior to election day.

Last month, the CEC annulled the registration of Irakli Okruashvili, ex-defense minister, who wanted to run for mayor of Gori; his failure to meet a two-year residency term was the reason behind the CECís decision.

Seven members of the 13-seat CEC voted in favor of keeping GDís mayoral candidates on ballot papers.

The CEC chairperson, Tamar Zhvania, was not among them; she suggested that this ruling of the CEC was not consistent with the commissionís previous decisions in similar cases.

She said that these recent cases were similar to the one of Okruashvili and in both instances she had similar approaches.

An appeal to revoke the registration of GDís mayoral candidate in Poti was filed in the CEC by the National-Democratic Movement and a similar appeal in case of the mayoral candidate in Rustavi was filed by an election bloc of New Rights and Free Georgia parties. The CECís ruling can be appealed in court. (Civil.Ge)