thea tsulukiani

Minister of Justice, Thea Tsulukiani. (Interpressnews.)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Georgia’s interagency commission for free and fair elections on Monday held its first session. It was held under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice.

The commission was created ahead of last year’s parliamentary election to prevent irregularities.

During the session, which was held session at the House of Justice in Tbilisi, it was decided to prohibit the opposition United National Movement Party from having two representatives in the agency. It will be restricted to one, like the other parties.

The interagency commission was first set up under the Security Council and chaired by its secretary Giga Bokeria. But the Ivanishvili government, which came to power in October 2012, changed the regulations so the commission now files under the Ministry of Justice. Thea Tsulukiani, Minister of Justice, now chairs the commission.

During the meeting, the parties expressed concern that the National Movement had an advantage by having two representatives in the commission. The chair of the commission asked for a vote on this issue and a majority voted for restricting the UNM to only one member, like the other parties.

The minister explained that the commission has also decided that political parties will always have the same person who will represent their party in the commission. She explained that after the commission was moved to the Justice Ministry, there were added new representatives from two ministries, one non-governmental organization and two political parties, and has become ‘more transparent’.

At Monday’s session, the commission reviewed seven complaints from the UNM. Tsulukiani said some of the violations took place during last year’s election campaign and have nothing to do with current processes. The rest, she said, need to be studied to find out what happened.

The UNM in the evening issued a statement about the commission session saying that ‘unfortunately, the commission has made only one decision during the session — to prohibit a party from having two representatives’.

The party is dissatisfied with the new format of the sessions, according to which political parties and NGOs only are allowed to express their opinion at the end of the session and for all issues together.

“This rule interrupts a separate discussion of single complaints and issues and making a decision based on information from different sources and argument from different parties,” the statement reads.

The interagency commission was transferred to the Justice Ministry on August 8. It is tasked with studying violations during the election campaign based on the reports from the media, political parties, NGOs or international observers. If it finds violations, the commission can issue recommendations for government officials and government bodies.

The commission didn’t issue any recommendations at Monday’s session. Tsulukiani said it was more like an introductory session and the commission will begin issuing recommendations at the next session.