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Kaladze knocks on the wrong door

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, June 4
The Georgian Dream coalition appealed to the Central Election Commission (CEC) to amend a certain aspect to the election code. According to the current regulation, if any candidate is removed from the party list, the full list must be abolished. Vice-premier Kakhi Kaladze has addressed the CEC and asked them to ban the rule. The appeal was preceded by claims from NGOs and other parties that they were forced to remove their names from party lists.

Kaladze dismissed such allegations, explaining that claims by opposition members that they have faced pressure are not backed by any evidence. However, in order to dispel all doubt, Kaladze initiated the amendment anyway.

He stressed that the Georgian Dream is the leading political party in Georgia, and that it enjoys great support among its constituents.

“Such speculation is not in the party’s interest. We do not need to apply any pressure. Our aim is to hold free and democratic elections,” Kaladze said.

Responding to the initiative, head of the CEC Tamar Zhvania stated that Kaladze’s address was significant, but the CEC was not eligible to solve the issue.

“The parliament specifies such amendments, not the Central Election Commission. It is beyond our competence,” Zhvania stated.

She added that the CEC was currently discussing the cases of reported pressure on opposition candidates.

Member of the non-parliamentary minority Giorgi Akhvlediani called the initiative unprofessional or simply a lie.”

Akhvlediani stated that it would be better if law-enforcement bodies got more involved in studying the pressure issues related to the opposition candidates.

“It seems that this is the only lever the current administration uses to win and hinder other parties in gaining even slight success,” Akhvlediani said.

NGOs that point to cases of pressure placed on political opponents on behalf of the Georgian Dream also slammed the Prime Minister for his remarks regarding the elections. Several days ago, Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said that the Georgian Dream “will not allow the victory of any other political party in any of [Georgia’s] towns or district.”

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, Transparency International Georgia and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association said that instead of reacting to and condemning reported cases of pressure on opposition candidates, the PM made statements that “indirectly encourage” such actions.

Both, the parliamentary and non-parliamentary opposition parties have already assessed the statement “as declared pressure and pursuit of political opponents.”

Kaladze said the remark voiced by the PM was probably a “mechanical error.”

Head of the Elections and Political Technologies Research Centre, Kakhi Kakhishvili, explained that the Georgian Dream is comfortable now, and that they believe nothing will change anytime soon.

“They preserved the same election code, containing lots of shortcomings; the one that was drafted by the UNM. It is in the Georgian Dream’s interest that nothing be changed in this regard. It is also in their interest that the UNM be granted the second position in the government, and the other parties be given minimal chances for success,” Kakhishvili said.