TBILISI, DFWatch – The election reform has been postponed for two months. It should have ended by the end of October, but is delayed until the end of December. The government explains the delay with the need to wait until the Venice Commission publishes its final conclusion.
A few days ago, Venice Commission chairman Tomas Markert, stated that their conclusion will be published on December 16 or 17. After that, parliament will start reviewing the bill. When parliament therefore waits until the Commission has had its say on the overhauled election law, it comes following an agreement between the government and the opposition. Nevertheless, it’s unclear whether the Council of Europe body´s remarks will be heeded or not.
“We the opposition representatives hoped and gave this a chance; but the government has a necessity to make a product on the bases of an agreement and not only on its own initiative. This necessity gives me hope that there is a chance that firstly, all twelve points of the agreement will be implemented and on the other hand, the government’s unilateral initiatives will be retracted,” says Mamuka Katsitadze of oppositional New Rights party and participant in the agreement.
The proposed new Election Code was sent to the Venice Commission for review at the end of August, 2011. The draft law reflects issues that had been agreed between the government and parts of the opposition, and it introduces changes in a number of areas, including the electoral system, party financing, how to handle disputes and other things. But there are also some issues that were not part of the agreement, including the rights for governors to take part in the election campaign; to do away with the procedure of marking fingers as well as stop using video surveillance in the polling stations; and also whether companies shall be allowed to finance elections.
The delegation from the Venice Commission which recently visited Tbilisi expressed their views regarding most of these issues.
But three issues were missing from the draft which was sent to the Venice Commission: the establishing of a new commission to review the voters’ lists, and an inter-agency which will monitor usage of administrative resources, and thirdly, to carry out media monitoring.
A commission to review the the voters’ list has not been set up yet. The government doesn’t even name the reason.
At the beginning of September it was said that in the next few days there would be held a meeting on in the Security Council to get to an agreement on the functions of the Interagency, and another meeting in the Central Election Commission on the issue regarding establishing a media-monitoring commission.
Today, two months later, none of the meetings have been held and it’s even unclear what functions these will commissions have. The government says that there is ‘no reason to hurry and these commissions will have to start functioning in July and August of 2012.’