The electoral administration is an important actor in the Georgian governance system due to its role in overseeing elections and election campaigns. The assessment finds that the administration's performance is somewhat unsatisfactory, with its lack of political will to investigate violations being cited as the main impediment. This underperformance seems to be related to a lack of independence of the body from the ruling party/government and by the absence of serious efforts by the court system to hold electoral officials accountable for alleged misbehaviour. On the positive side, the electoral management body operates in a transparent manner and is assessed as rather well-resourced. Also, the electoral administration's performance during the 2010 local elections was assessed more positively by the observers than its work during the 2008 parliamentary elections.
The table below presents the indicator scores which summarize the assessment of the Electoral Commission in terms of its capacity, its internal governance and its role within the Georgian integrity system.The remainder of this section presents the qualitative assessment for each indicator.
Structure and Organisation
Georgia has a three-tier electoral administration consisting of the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), District Electoral Commissions (DECs) and Precinct Electoral Commissions (PECs). The formation rules, powers and responsibilities of the administration are detailed in the Electoral Code. Parliament appoints five members of the CEC upon the president's nomination. The president is to select the candidates through an open selection process administered by a special commission.
The CEC subsequently appoints five members of each DEC through a similar selection process, while DECs appoint six members of each PEC within the corresponding district.In addition, the country's leading political parties have a right to appoint one member of the CEC and one member of each DEC and PEC.
To what extent does the electoral management body (EMB) have adequate resources to achieve its goals in practice?
The amount of funding allocated to Georgia's electoral management body has grown considerably in recent years and efforts have been made to improve the skills of electoral officials. However, recent elections have demonstrated that members of the electoral administration require further training.
According to a former CEC chairman, the funding allocated to the electoral administration in the state budget is generally adequate and is always transferred in a timely manner. The amount of funding has increased steadily in recent years. One area of concern highlighted by the former chairman is the fact that salaries offered to the heads of district electoral commissions are not competitive (especially in Tbilisi and other, relatively large cities), which makes it difficult to recruit the most qualified and experienced individuals for these positions. The chairman emphasised that every department of the CEC received training at least on one occasion in 2009.
An independent expert who has been following the work of Georgia's electoral administration closely for many years confirmed most of the information provided by the former CEC chairman. The expert said that the funding allocated to the electoral administration is sufficient for the proper conduct of elections and the administration has a proper amount of equipment at its disposal, though the staff is not always qualified to use it. Nonetheless, the expert also noted that, in recent years, the administration has demonstrated a far greater commitment to improving the skills of its members and employees (through various training programs) than was the case before.
While the efforts that the CEC has directed towards training commission members and staff is a positive sign, the findings of international observers who monitored the 2008 elections in Georgia revealed a considerable lack of knowledge of important procedures among the administration's officers and employees. International observers noted that PECs had problems in terms of filling out the vote count protocols,while DECs had problems with the aggregation of results.According to the OSCE/ODIHR, the problems highlighted a need for further training in these areas.The organization made a similar observation during the 2010 municipal elections, noting that, despite the trainings conducted by the CEC, the election day showed that electoral administration members still did not have sufficient knowledge of the procedures for vote count and completion of protocols. The problem was probably aggravated by the fact that many PEC members were replaced after the trainings were held.
To what extent is the electoral management body independent by law?
Georgia has a number of important legal provisions designed to ensure independence of the electoral management body though some parts of the legislation are potentially problematic.
The Electoral Code contains a number of important provisions designed to reinforce the independence of electoral commissions. It says that the electoral administration is "independent from other state bodies within the framework of its powers".Members and employees of electoral commissions have the status of "electoral officials" and are prohibited from combining their duties with party membership, though this restriction does not apply to the commission members appointed by political parties. The law emphasizes that the members of electoral commissions do not represent the bodies/organizations that have appointed them, are independent in their activities and are to be guided solely by the Constitution and the Code. Any kind of pressure on commission members or interference with their work is prohibited and punishable.
In order to safeguard the independence of the CEC chairperson from the government/ruling party, the Code stipulates that the candidate nominated by the president must be approved by the membersof the CEC appointed by the opposition political parties. Similarly, only a PEC member appointed by an opposition party can serve as the PEC secretary.
In order to protect electoral officials from arbitrary dismissal, Article 21 of the Code establishes the procedures and valid reasons for a commission chairperson's or a member's dismissal (these are generally limited to various violations of the law). Early removal of the CEC chairperson or a member from the office requires a parliamentary decision. Electoral administration members appointed by political parties can be recalled by their respective parties or dismissed by courts.
At the same time, there are some points of concern in the Code. As noted by the Council of Europe's Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR, parliament's power to dismiss CEC members on a discretionary basis and the power of political parties to recall the commission members they have appointed could undermine the electoral administration's independence.
Similarly, an independent electoral expert interviewed by TI Georgia suggested that the current legislative provisions do not sufficiently guarantee the independence of electoral administration, noting that Georgia's electoral officials generally try to avoid angering the government bodies or political parties that appointed them as they fear the prospect of losing their jobs.
To what extent does the electoral management body function independently practice?
Independence of Georgia's electoral management body was called into question during the last national election though the findings of the observers were less critical during the most recent local elections.
Independence and impartiality of the electoral administration remain a major concern in Georgia. There have been no recorded instances of public and direct government interference in the activities of the electoral administration (at least at the central level) but the ruling National Movement had a de facto majority in all electoral commissions during the recent elections (the 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections, as well as the 2010 local elections). As a result, as the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM) noted in its report on the 2008 parliamentary elections, the CEC members "failed to act independently" on contentious issues and "decisions were voted on along political lines", while the electoral administration in general demonstrated an "apparentbias"in favour of the ruling party and public officials during the adjudication of campaign-related complaints and appeals. The Mission emphasized that DEC members appointed by the opposition were sometimes excluded from the work of the commissions and there were at least 25 cases when PEC members were "intimidated and pressured to resign".
A leading domestic observer organization, the International Society of Fair Elections and Democracy, also highlighted a lack of impartiality and neutrality at every level of the electoral administration, noting that commissions were often used by their members as a platform for political statements.
The situation appears to have improved somewhat during the 2010 municipal elections as the observer organizations did not question the administration's independence in the same manner as in 2008. The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission noted that the administration managed the process in an "inclusive" manner and the CEC chairman made efforts to reach "consensus" among the commission members, including those representing the opposition. However, the Mission emphasized that the low level of public confidence in the administration noted during previous elections remained a problem.In the 2010 Caucasus Barometer survey, 39 percent of the respondents "completely agreed" or "somewhat agreed" with the statement that electoral administration is politically biased (compared to the 24 percent that "completely disagreed" or "somewhat disagreed").
To what extent are there provisions in place to ensure that the public can obtain relevant information on the activities and decision-making processes of the EMB?
The Georgian Electoral Code includes extensive provisions regarding the transparency of the electoral administration's activities, although some of these provisions need to be rendered more specific.
The Electoral Code contains a special chapter on transparency, emphasizing that the "process of preparation and conduct of elections in Georgia is public."Electoral commissions are required to disclose election-related documents and information to any interested individuals within two daysfrom receiving such request. The meetings of electoral commissions are public and representatives of the media, election contestants and local and international observer organizations are authorized to attend. They are also authorized to enter polling stations on the election day.The CEC Public and International Relations Department is responsible for issuing copies of CEC decisions to the media and the interested organizations/individuals. The Code also requires the CEC to publicize the information regarding donations received by political parties and candidates for their campaign funds.Election commissions have a duty to post voter lists and vote count protocols for public scrutiny.
The law details the rights of observers and party/candidate proxies, as well as the procedures for their registration. Electoral commissions are prohibited from denying them registration provided they present all the required documents. Observers and proxies are authorized to monitor various stages of the electoral process, including voter registration, polling and vote count. Similar provisions are in place for the media.
The Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR have highlighted several transparency-related provisions in the Electoral Code that require clarification. Namely, they have noted that the provision in Article 69 requiring domestic observers to report in advance about the districts/precincts where they will monitor the elections "could be applied in a restrictive manner and might hinder efficient observation".The two organizations have also called for clearer provisions endorsing the right of observers to monitor vote count at PECs and vote consolidation at DECs.
To what extent are reports and decisions of the electoral management body made public in practice?
The elections held in Georgia in recent years have been mostly transparent but some aspects of the process require improvement.
The observers' feedback regarding the transparency of the electoral administration's operation during the 2008 parliamentary and the 2010 municipal elections was mostly positive. According to the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, the CEC operated in a transparent manner and itssessions were open to observers, party proxies and the media.According to the Mission, the process of candidate registration "was overall inclusive and transparent".Voter lists were available for scrutiny in PECs and citizens could also check their names via internet, a CEC hotline or text messages.Observers and party proxies were present during the vote count in a majority of polling stations.The CEC website was updated regularly and was described by the observers as "quite informative".The CEC promptly posted election results and protocols on the website.The website presently carries different types of election-related information included the campaign financing reports of parties and blocs. During the 2010 local elections, the CEC created an online database of complaints and appeals, providing the general public with an access to the relevant documents.
At the same time, a number of problems were identified. According to the OSCE/ODIHR Mission, there was a lack of transparency during the process of tabulation in some DECs and there were cases when domestic observers were forced to leave polling stations. PECs often failed to post the vote count protocols for public scrutiny.Agendas of CEC sessions were only finalized shortly before the start of these sessions and draft materials were not made available to all observers.
To what extent are there provisions in place to ensure that the EMB has to report and be answerable for its actions?
The legal framework contains adequate provisions regarding the electoral administration's political and financial accountability. However, the procedures for challenging the decisions of electoral commissions are problematic.
The Georgian Electoral Code states that the CEC is accountable to parliament and has a duty to submit a report to the legislature within 60 days from the end of an election. The report must contain information about violations of electoral law recorded during the election, public servants who have committed violations, the cases transferred to the Prosecutor's Office by the CEC and the DECs, the cases filed by these commissions with courts, as well as the relevant court decisions.The CEC is also required to present a post-election financial report to the Ministry of Finance, while the Chamber of Control (Georgia's supreme audit institution) must examine electoral spending.
The Code also establishes procedures and time frames for appealing against the decisions of electoral commissions. An electoral commission's decision must first be challenged in a higher commission and then in a court.However, as the Venice Commission has rightly noted, the appeals procedures are unnecessarily complex and the time frames are too short.The Venice Commission has also highlighted the fact that the right of individuals to loge complaints is limited to cases concerning the accuracy of voter lists.
To what extent does the EMB have to report and be answerable for its actions in practice?
Although the electoral administration reports to parliament as required by the law, the accountability of its individual members for committed violations is not ensured adequately in practice.
Addressing electoral irregularities and holding electoral officials responsible for violations has proved problematic during the recent elections in Georgia. The commissions of higher level generally failed to ensure accountability of the commissions at the lower level, while courts did not prove to be an effective mechanism for holding the administration accountable either since, according to the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, there was a "general lack of will on the part of the election administration and courts to deal with complaints and appeals in a serious and impartial manner" during the 2008 parliamentary polland there were "widespread and significant irregularities" in the handling of complaints by the PECs and DECs.Specifically, the Mission noted that the courts "refused to hear witnesses or view documented evidence, failed to address all relevant facts, applied unsound interpretations of the law, ignored the spirit of the law, or failed to provide complete or clear factual-legal reasoning."
Furthermore, the Mission noted that there were "widespread and credible reports of local observers and proxies being obstructed by PEC members from filing complaints."According to the Mission, almost all of the pre-election complaints filed by domestic observers and political parties against decisions and actions of election commissions were unsuccessful. A large majority of post-election complaints were also left unconsidered by the CEC, often without adequate investigation or sound factual-legal reasoning.The International Society of Fair Elections and Democracy noted that, while the DECs imposed fines on PEC members in a number of cases, it is not clear whether or not such penalties were executed in practice.
The problem persisted during the 2010 municipal elections as, according to the OSCE/ODIHR, DECs were reluctant to impose sanctions on PEC members even in the cases where violations had been proven and complaints had been upheld.The CEC "made an effort to review complaints in a timely manner" but failed to adjudicate all the complaints it received prior to the election day.
On the positive side, the CEC submitted a report to parliament after the 2008 parliamentary election as required by the law and itereEC memberswas also posted to the commission's website. The report provides an extensive account of the electoral administration's activities during the election period. A similar report was published after the 2010 local elections.
The post-election financial reports and the results of the Chamber of Control's inspection, however, have not been published (the law does not expressly require that these documents be publicized).
To what extent are there mechanisms in place to ensure the integrity of the electoral management body?
Georgia lacks a formal Code of Conduct for electoral officials though the Law on Public Service contains a number of integrity mechanisms that apply to many members of the electoral administration.
Article 18 of the Electoral Code states that the CEC members and a majority of its staff, as well as the DEC members, are "public servants" and therefore required to follow the provisions of the Law on Public Service.The latter establishes "general rules of conduct" and requires public servants to perform their duties in an "unbiased and honest manner", to refrain from misusing public funds and to be guided by the "principles of transparency and lawfulness" in decision-making.The Law provides general rules regarding conflict of interest and states that public servants have no right to offer or receive any kind of benefit related to their position in the public service. Public servants are required to announce a conflict of interest as soon as they learn about it and to make annual declarations about family members or close relatives who work in the same agency.The Law also establishes general rules of conduct regarding the prevention of corruption-related offences, prohibiting public servants from receiving any gift or service that could influence their work. If in doubt, they are required to declare such gifts. Public servants must inform their superiors about any such gifts within three days.
While the Law on Public Service does contain important integrity rules, Georgia would still benefit from having a dedicated Code of Conduct for electoral officials, particularly as the Law on Public Service does not apply to PEC members (who are not public servants)
To what extent is the integrity of the electoral management body ensured in practice?
Integrity of electoral administration members and staff is ensured adequately at the CEC level though it is difficult to evaluate the situation at the lower tiers of administration due to the lack of relevant information.
According to the former CEC chairman, while there is no Code of Ethics for the administration's staff, heads of all departments and units evaluate the work of their subordinates according to a standard performance evaluation form every three months and the results of this evaluation subsequently form the basis for promotion/reward or punishment of employees. The former chairman said that the CEC also conducts inquiries into violations and breaches committed by the staff. Whenever suspicions of a possible violation of rules arise, a formal report is written and an investigation is launched by the CEC Legal Department (except for the cases when the investigation concerns an employee of the Legal Department). According to the former chairman, violations are not common as he could only recall a few incidents of this kind.
The above statements were confirmed by an independent expert who said that CEC does conduct these kinds of inquiries, emphasizing that the commission's Legal Department has been quite effective in detecting violations committed by the staff and there have been instances of employees receiving a formal warning and even being sacked. Overall, the expert believes that the CEC has been quite successful in promoting integrity among its staff in recent years.
TI Georgia found it difficult to assess the level of integrity at DECs and PECs due to a lack of relevant information. The PECs, in particular, are a matter of concern since, as noted above, the existing integrity rules do not apply to their members.
Does the electoral management body effectively regulate candidate and political party finance?
The law provides the electoral administration with a number of campaign regulation mechanisms but these have not proved to be effective in practice.
Under the Electoral Code (Articles 46-48), the electoral administration is responsible for regulating campaign financing of contestants who are required to report to the relevant electoral commission on a monthly basis about the donations received. They must also submit a post-election campaign finance report along with an audit report. If the electoral administration discovers violations in a party's campaign finance report and believes that the violations could have affected the outcome of the poll, it is authorized to appeal to a court and request that the party's votes be excluded from the final election results.
The Code requires the CEC to set up a financial monitoring group that will examine the information submitted by the contestants during the campaign and present its findings to the administration.However, although contestants usually submit the required documents to the CEC within the legal deadlines, this has not proved to be an effective mechanism of control in practice since the monitoring group lacks a clear mandate and the instruments at its disposal are limited. For example, the group cannot effectively examine the content of the finance reports submitted by election contestants because it has no access to their accounting records and must instead rely on the audit documents supplied by the contestants themselves.
The law also gives the CEC certain powers in terms of the allocation of media coverage to political parties and candidates. During the campaign, the electronic and printed media that run political advertising are required to supply relevant information (the amount of advertising, the price charged, etc) to the electoral administration on a weekly basis. The Code requires the CEC to conduct media monitoring in order to ensure the implementation of the relevant rules.The Venice Commission has stated that the Code lacks specific provisions regarding the types of prompt corrective action to be taken by the CEC if the monitoring reveals violations, noting that the CEC monitoring of the media during the 2008 parliamentary elections did not sufficiently identify unfairness in the media coverage.
Does the EMB effectively oversee and administer free and fair elections and ensure the integrity of the electoral process?
The electoral administration's work during the last national and local elections has been assessed positively as far as the pre-election activities and the voting process are concerned. However, the administration's performance in terms of the vote count/tabulation and adjudication of post-election complaints has drawn significant criticism.
The CEC and its subordinate commissions are responsible for administering and overseeing different stages of the electoral process including the registration of voters and contestants, voting and vote count/tabulation.
The CEC took a number of steps before the 2008 parliamentary elections to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. It conducted voter information campaigns on a number of key election-related issues, made sure citizens had a chance to examine the accuracy of voter lists through several different mechanisms and also produced different types of electoral material in minority languages. The voting process was generally assessed positively by the observers, although some organizational and procedural shortcomings were noted, particularly with regard to inking safeguards and mobile voting.The number of voters who were denied the right to vote because of their absence from voter lists was insignificant.
At the same time, the vote count and tabulation was assessed less positively as the observers reported "significant procedural errors and omissions".While party proxies and observers attended a large majority of vote counts, there were cases of domestic observers being forced to leave polling stations or DECs during the count and tabulation.The OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission was also very critical of the manner in which the administration handled the alleged violations of election law both before and after the election day, noting that the administration "did not, on its own initiative, undertake to examine the legitimacy of decisions and actions of election commissions or to investigate and address campaign breaches".
A similar general picture was observed during the 2010 municipal elections. The administration's work in pre-election period and the process of voting on election day were assessed positively by the OSCE/ODIHR. The Mission noted that the administration made "clear efforts to pro-actively address" the existing problems and managed the elections in a "professional, transparent and inclusive manner."Efforts were made to improve the voter lists and the process of candidate/party registration was inclusive, while the CEC also implemented a number of voter information programmes.The voting process was described as "well-managed" and was assessed positively by the Mission's observers in 96 percent of cases.However, there were, once again, significant problems with the process of vote count and tabulation and the handling of post-election complaints and appeals by the commissions. Significant procedural errors were reported in a quarter of vote counts at PECs, while vote tabulation was also assessed negatively in a quarter of DECs observed by the Mission.The adjudication of complaints in some DECs was described as "chaotic" and it was noted that many DEC decisions rejecting complaints lack legal reasoning.
 The Electoral Code of Georgia, adopted on 2 August 2001, Article 28.
 Id., Articles 33, 37.
 Id., Articles 31 (1), 36.
 Interview of former CEC Chairman Levan Tarkhnishvili with the author, 2 November 2009.
 Interview of a Tbilisi-based electoral expert with the author, 10 November 2009.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Parliamentary Elections 21 May 2008, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, (Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR, 2008),.24.
 Id., 7.
 Id., 7.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Municipal Elections30 May 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, (Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR, 2010), 7-8.
 The Electoral Code of Georgia, Article 17.
 Id., Articles 18-19.
 Id., Articles 22, 27.
 European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), Joint Opinion on the Election Code of Georgia as amended through March 2010 (Strasbourg/Warsaw: 9 June 2010), 9.
 Interview of a Tbilisi-based electoral expert with the author, 10 November 2009.
 OSCEOSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Parliamentary Elections 21 May 2008, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 1-2.
 Id., 19.
 Id., 1- 2, 8, 12, 19.
 International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, Report on Monitoring the 21 May 2008 Parliamentary Elections, 35.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Municipal Elections30 May 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, p 1.
 The Caucasus Research Resource Centers, Caucasus Barometer 2010, http://www.crrc.ge/oda/?dataset=4&row=107(accessed on 30 June 2011).
 The Electoral Code of Georgia, Article 65.
 Id., Articles 66-67.
 Id., Article 48.
 Id., Articles 9, 63.
 Id., Articles 68-72.
 European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), Joint Opinion on the Election Code of Georgia as amended through March 2010, 11.
 Id., 12.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Parliamentary Elections 21 May 2008, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 1, 2.; OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Municipal Elections 30 May 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, 6.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Parliamentary Elections 21 May 2008, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 2.
 Id., 9.
 Id., 24; OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Municipal Elections 30 May 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, 3.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Parliamentary Elections 21 May 2008, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 7; OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Municipal Elections 30 May 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, 7.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Parliamentary Elections 21 May 2008, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 3; OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Municipal Elections 30 May 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, 3.
 The database can be accessed at: http://sachivrebi.cec.gov.ge/
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Parliamentary Elections 21 May 2008, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 3, 19; OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Municipal Elections 30 May 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, 22.
 Id., 6.
 The Electoral Code of Georgia, Article 17.
 Id., Article 45.
 The Electoral Code of Georgia, Article 77.
 European Commission for Democracy Through Law, Joint Opinion on the Election Code of Georgia, as revised up to July 2008, 26-27.
 Id., 26-29.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Parliamentary Elections 21 May 2008, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 19.
 Id., 3.
 Id., 19.
 Id., 26, 27.
 Id., 28.
 International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy Report on Monitoring the 21 May 2008 Parliamentary Elections, 30.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Municipal Elections 30 May 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, 24.
 Id., p 19.
 The Law of Georgia on Public Service, adopted on 31 October 1997
 Id., Article 73 (2).
 Id., Article, 73 (4).
 Id. Article 73 (5).
 Interview of Levan Tarkhnishvili with the author, 2 November 2009.
 Interview of a Tbilisi-based electoral expert with the author, 10 November 2009.
 The Electoral Code of Georgia, Articles 46-48.
 Id., Article 48.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Parliamentary Elections 21 May 2008, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 14; OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Municipal Elections 30 May 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, 13.
 The Electoral Code of Georgia, Articles 73-73 (1).
 European Commission for Democracy Through Law, Joint Opinion on the Election Code of Georgia, as revised up to July 2008, 19.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Parliamentary Elections 21 May 2008, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 3, 23.
 Id., 24.
 Id., 19.
 Id., 20.
 OSCE/ODIHR Georgia: Municipal Elections 30 May 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report, 1.
 Id., 1, 7.
 Id., 3.
 Id., 21, 22.
 Id., 23, 24.