TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgia will hold parliamentary elections on October 1. The announcement marks the beginning of the election campaign and political parties are now subject to a special set of rules.

Whereas, the Georgian constitution says that parliamentary elections should be held in October, the exact date is set by President.

The date of the election is announed not later than 60 days before Election Day. As the date is now set, political parties will have to carry out their activity under special rules. These rules are defined by the Election Code.


Procedures of Election Registration

According to the code, parties participating in elections should present majortarian candidates and party lists within 30 days. In this case this term will end on August 31, at 18:00 in the evening. MP candidates can be presented by a party which participates independently in elections, by election blocs and by five-person initiative groups of voters. Each party, bloc or initiative group should present one candidate for each majoritarian district. An initiative group needs additional procedures in order to present a candidate.

When it comes to party lists, each party participating in elections and election blocs can present a party list. The list should contain a number of candidates for parliament, which should not be less than 100 and not more than 200. One person cannot be named on two different party lists.

Election blocs should be set up in the nearest 17 days and the Central Election Commission should be informed about it. Parties which are already registered can set up such blocs.

As soon as an election bloc is registered, based on a decree by the CEC head, authority of representatives of the parties, which are in the bloc, is suspended in each election commission. An election bloc can appoint two representatives in each election commission.


Election period obligations

Election blocs and parties – technically called ‘election subjects’ — and their representatives are prohibited from transferring money to citizens, or to promise money. They are also prohibited from conducting activity which is the competence of the government. Accordingly, if such activity is observed, this election subject’s registration will be cancelled.

It is prohobited to use administrative resouces during election campaigning.

Election commission members, judges, Interior and Defense Ministries, Prosecutor’s Office, Intelligence Service; Employees of State Protection Special Service, General Auditor, Ombudsman, Foreign Country Citizen or organization; charity and religious organization; state or local government’s officials, while fulfilling official functions, members of National Communication Commission and Energy and Water Supply Regulatory Commission members do not have a right to participate in election campaigning.

The following bodies are prohibited from using administrative resources to support, or campaign against, election subject in the election campaign: state government and local governmet bodies; organizations which are financed from the state budget; it is prohibited to use rented buildings if other election subjects don’t have the opportunity to use buildings with the same purposes; it is also prohibited to use communication resoures, information services and other technology for state government bodies or local governments, also organizations which are financed by the state; it is prohibited to use transport belonging to state government or local government for free or with advantages.

To monitor violations and prevention there was set up special inter-agency commission, which has been functioning since July 1.


Regulation of Media Activity

In the nearest ten days, general regulations for election campaign coverage will come into force.

Following the Election Code, 50 days before the elections until the Election Day owners of broadcasting license and Public Broadcasters are obliged to follow certain conditions. Specifically, in case if they allocate space for commercial for election agitation and political addvertising, they are obliged to announce this information and inform the GNCC weekly about periods of air time for commercial, length of this time and schedule, fee for the time space and service.

Paid time allocated by TV channels or radio companies for one day shouldn’t exceed 15 percent of its daily broadcasting time and none of the election subjects should be allocated more than one third of this time. Fee for the paid time should be the same for each election subject. In addition commercial should have tag whether it is paid or free. It is prohibited to place political commercial in the other time, except time allocated for this goal.

Broadcasters are obliged to be impartial. The Election Code says that during the election campaign, a broadcaster should follow principles of fairness and objectivity in its political coverage and while covering election topics.

What’s called a ‘common broadcaster’, which means it has a general news coverage, or other broadcasters which want to have election commercial, are obliged to allocate 90 seconds in each three hours for free and without discrimination for each qualified election subject.

The must-carry and must-offer principles have now came into force, which means that before Election Day, companies authorized to transmit broadcasters are obliged to carry signal of every broadcaster which have an appropriate license, as defined by the law on broadcasting. Broadcasters won’t have the right to switch off their signal from cable operator networks.

This means that in theory, everyone who subscribes to cable TV in Georgia will now be able to watch Kavkazia, Maestro and Channel 9, three small government-critical channels, but it remains to be seen whether these rules will have the desired effect.