Elections, Legal reform, News

CoE to Georgia: No more surprises, please

by | Oct 13, 2011

Two observers from the Council of Europe (CoE) have asked Georgia’s ruling party to stop coming up with surprise changes in a draft law without going through the normal democratic procedures.

At least according to one of the opposition politicians, two rapporteurs from the Monitoring Committee of the CoE’s Parliamentary Assembly asked Georgia’s ruling party to stick to what has been agreed with other politicial factions and not go it alone.

“They think that if there is an attitude that we want to agree on the document, then there must not occur non-coordinated issues,” Mamuka Katsitadze, a member of the New Rights party told DFWatch after a meeting with the rapporteurs.

Georgia has been reworking its entire election system since 2010, after being criticized by the CoE for shortcomings. President Saakashvili’s party entered into talks with the opposition, but most of them left the talks. After a deal was struck with two factions, the ruling party changed the draft without consulting anyone.

The rapporteurs who were here on a working visit focused on the election system in general, but particularly the issue of how to handle the electoral roll. This has been a contentious issue in past elections, with voters showing up to cast their vote but not being on the list, while others have found dead relatives on the list. Some have claimed the mistakes are deliberate and part of an effort at organized fraud.

After meeting with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), opposition parties and a special editorial committee which worked out the actual text of the draft law before it was suddenly altered by the governing party, the rapporteurs said they had listened to all points of view and have formed their own opinion on each issue.

Ruling party parliamentarian Pavle Kublashvili, who chairs the editorial committee said that these issues are still undecided and they must wait for the conclusion of the Venice Commission’s to make the final decisions.

The draft law is currently pending review with another organ under the CoE called the Venice Commission, which specializes in how to devise fair and fraud-proof election systems.

Another issue the CoE representatives were interested in, is the redrawing of electoral districts when the number of parliamentarians is increased from 150 to 190, according to Mamuka Katsitadze.

Today, 75 are elected by a first past the post system, and the same number by proportionality. The new system increases the latter to 107. While thereby increasing the number of proportionally elected MPs more than the first past the post MPs — so-called majoritians — the rapporteurs were worried that increasing the number of majoritarians was not a sound way to go and together with redrawing of election districts would threaten the principle of proportionality when the system is viewed as a whole.

In response, the ruling party said that they could establish a pure first past the post system, if there is a wish to have equal electoral districts, to which the guests laughed.

Pavle Kublashvili says that these subjects were seriously discussed, but he also claims that the government voiced their own arguments and they hope that their arguments were satisfactory to the rapporteurs.

According to him, the observers had a remark regarding how to go through and verifiy of the electoral rolls. The CoE experts thought that proof checking the list should be a job the Civil Registry should do, not the election commission, as is the case today.

“We agreed on [introducing a] verification process, to prevent the opposition’s constant appeals on this issue,” Kublashvili told DFWatch.

Mamuka Katsitadze hopes that the Europeans Council’s views will have an influence on the final decision.

“Their silent response showed me that they will seriously voice their views and proposals to the Venice Commission, which will be reflected in [the commission’s] final conclusion and the government’s promise is that finally the Venice Commission’s comments will be taken into consideration,” Katsitadze claims.

 

(Photograph: Tango! Desktop Project)



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