Government should solve several important problems prior to 2014 elections
In the recent future, the local self-governmental elections will be announced, which will commence electoral campaign. The upcoming elections are unprecedented, since members of the Assemblies and Mayors/Governors will be directly elected on a local level. This is a significant path for decentralization and strengthening of the local self-government.
It should be noted that despite the calls from the civil society and the political parties, the procedure of declaring non-confidence to Mayors and Governors has not been altered. Furthermore, no substantial changes have been carried out in an electoral system: Existence of multi-mandated districts and prohibition of individual candidates from taking part in Mayors’/Governors’ elections are still problematic.
Additionally, we would like to refer to the challenges that still remain relevant at this moment and influence pre-electoral environment.
1. Election Legislation
As noted above, despite the reforms, certain issues still remain, that require further improvements. This is especially problematic within the context of the upcoming elections. The Parliament of Georgia is considering a Bill on the amendments in the Election Code. The bill was initiated after the Election Code underwent amendments as suggested by the Inter-Faction group. It is noteworthy, that one of the recommendations of the international organizations referred to importance of prohibition of any changes in the election legislation shortly before the election date.
2. United Voters’ List
According to the amendments, the biometric registration of the voters will not take place. The biometric registration of electorate would have identified the exact number of the voters and would have eliminated mistakes in the electoral lists, which was one of the most important results of the work of the 2013 Inter-Faction group. Instead of this, the State Services Agency is comparing pictures in its database and is correcting duplications. More specifically, the recent picture of a voter will be compared to all of his/her pictures as depicted in the State Services Agency database. In case of an existence of a possible duplication, the Agency will individually study it and in case of a confirmation of such a duplication, will make a decision in accordance with the law. In addition, on an elections day, each voting station will be provided with the lists, that would include photos of the voters. This way, the voters who arrive at the voting station will be compared to the pictures that are registered in the database. However, this is not a biometric registration of voters and cannot provide a trustworthy list of voters. Besides, effective use of the photo-lists so that it does not impede the election process, will depend on the quality of each photo, its parameters and the skills of the members of the Commission.
The Amendments also envision the possibility for persons eliminated from the registration and persons registered without an address to take part in elections according to their factual addresses. This might lead to certain manipulations regarding the votes of such voters.
The Amendments specified the procedure of voting by the staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Such voters, who are required to be in a different place then their registered address, can have a right to take part only in the proportional elections of Assemblies. As for the majoritarian and Mayors/Governors elections, the voters from the Ministry of Internal Affairs can take part if the place of their dislocation and the place of their registration are the same. It should be noted, that this amendment is a positive step, however, the staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs whose place of dislocation and the place of registration are not the same should not have the right to vote even in proportional election of Assemblies and should not elect the self-governmental bodies in those districts where they do not live permanently. Our recommendation is that such persons should participate in voting according to the location of their permanent registration address not a current temporary place of dislocation.
3. Delimitation of the District Borders
It is noteworthy, that the issue of creating new self-governmental communities has not yet been decided and this process is taking place without public consultations or inclusion of the wider population. Therefore, the border and names of districts are still unclear. This impedes the political parties from planning and carrying out election campaigns.
4. Investigatory Procedures Against the Members of the “United National Movement”, Including the Former Officials
Recently, the investigatory bodies started to actively summon individuals (to receive their statements or to charge them with crimes), who are involved in active political activities. The Inter-Agency Commission issued several recommendations before the Parliamentary and Presidential elections and urged the investigatory bodies to refrain from such activities during pre-election campaign unless there was an urgent necessity. We consider this recommendation to be still relevant.
5. Commencement of Work by Inter-Agency Commission
Unfortunately, an Inter-Agency commission has not been created which would have had important preventive function in the recent years. According to the 2014 amendments, for the 2014 local self-governmental elections an Inter-Agency Commission would be created within 10 calendar days after the entry into force of the amendments. It should also be noted, that the date of publication of the amendment was defined as the date of their entry into force. The bill was published on 14 March, which entails that the Inter-Agency Commission should have already commenced working. We consider that the Inter-Agency commission should immediately start functioning and should guarantee implementation of its functions as granted by the law.
6. State Social Programmes
Recently, state authorities started to announce about implementation of social projects that seem to be motivated by gaining the votes of the electorate. More specifically, such projects include granting social benefits for large families two weeks before the election date and initiation of a memorandum on solving the problem of so-called “Khrushchovkas” in Tbilisi. The Government should refrain from initiating such projects during a pre-election campaign, since it undermines competitiveness of the electoral environment and constitutes misuse of administrative resources.
7. Discharge of Public Servants from the Local Self-Governmental Bodies
Similarly problematic is the law adopted by the Parliament, which transfers all Local Self-Governmental public servants after the elections from their permanent positions to the temporary positions of acting public servants. Not only is this a significant pressure on public servants, which compels them to be get involved in electoral processes, but it is also a direct violation of the Constitution of Georgia and the labour rights of the persons employed in a public sector. We urge the Government to undertake effective steps to improve these gaps and to guarantee equal and fair electoral environment.
Transparency International Georgia
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA)
Civil Development Agency (CiDA)
Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC)