9 Steps Georgia Is Expected to Take to Advance to the Stage of Negotiations with the EU: Free and Fair Elections - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

9 Steps Georgia Is Expected to Take to Advance to the Stage of Negotiations with the EU: Free and Fair Elections

07 March, 2024

The Government of Georgia has not fulfilled the requirements of the European Commission which are necessary, on the one hand, to hold free, fair, and competitive elections in October 2024, and, on the other hand, to successfully advance Georgia to the stage of negotiations with the EU.

A good example of this is the amendments to the Election Code passed by the Parliament in February 2024 which completely disregard the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations regarding the election of the Central Election Commission (CEC) chairperson and the members and, therefore, are in conflict with the 9 steps laid down by the European Commission.

We welcome the decision of the President of Georgia to veto those amendments and hope that the President’s reasoned remarks, which will be enclosed with the draft law as it goes back to the Parliament, will fully address the Venice Commission recommendations. We call on the ruling majority not to miss this chance to implement a genuine electoral reform which will enable the country to hold free and fair elections and avoid any slowdowns on its way towards the EU membership.

On 15 December 2023, Georgia was granted the status of EU candidate country on the understanding that the country fulfills the nine steps outlined by the European Commission.

European Commission’s requirements

Georgia is required to ensure a free, fair, and competitive electoral process and fully address the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations which include but are not limited to:

  • Revising the appointment formula of the election administration to prevent factual dominance of a single political party;
  • Strengthening the legal and institutional framework to effectively combat the misuse of administrative resources;
  • Strictly regulating campaigning by high-level officials, including mayors;
  • Requiring the election commissions to give due consideration to all complaints;
  • Requiring the relevant agencies to take prompt and effective steps and investigate allegations of intimidation, coercion, and vote buying, etc.

Government of Georgia Actions in Response

To address the recommendations set forth by the European Commission, the Government of Georgia approved the Action Plan which envisaged only three such activities which are either irrelevant or inadequate for the fulfillment of the above key recommendations:

  • Requesting the OSCE/ODIHR’s long-term election observation mission for the 2024 elections;
  • Creating working formats for the effective cooperation between relevant authorities and election monitoring organizations;
  • Passing relevant legislative amendments for party financing, namely:
    • Introducing a ban on corporate donations;
    • Lowering the cap for annual party expenditures.

On 26 February 2024, members of the ruling party initiated another package of legislative amendments which also fail to address the European Commission’s requirements. They propose to empower the National Agency of Public Registry to repeal a political party’s registration upon the request of the head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau if that party has failed to submit its financial declaration for two consecutive years and, as a consequence, to confiscate the party’s assets.

Transparency International Georgia Assessment

To address the European Commission’s recommendations Georgia has to implement complex and profound reforms of both the electoral legislation and practices. In this process, all the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR key recommendations must be fully fulfilled. It is important that the necessary steps in this direction be taken as soon as possible.

We consider that the initiative to repeal a party registration is unconstitutional as any party may be banned only by the decision of the Constitutional Court and only on a limited basis.

The two amendments to party financing legislation, which ban the corporate donations and set a new cap for annual party expenditure (from 0.05% of GDP down to 0.04%), are a positive step forward. However, they remain insufficient and will bring about no significant effect.