TBILISI, DFWatch – Most Georgians who live illegally abroad may not be able to vote in the upcoming elections, after Georgia’s Foreign Affairs Minister made the rules for qualifying as a voter stricter.
There are no precise data about Georgian citizens living illegally abroad, but the number has been approximated to up to one million. According to official data, the number of voters registered in Georgia is 3 650 000, but the final list will be published on August 1.
Georgian citizens living abroad vote in the districts which Georgian consular offices open in different countries. It was necessary to register in order to vote, and so must illegal emigrants.
But according to the new rules, Georgians must also present a document indicating where they live.
Analysts and the opposition say this will restrict the right to vote for Georgians living abroad. They say the government did this on purpose, as this illegal emigrants are less likely to be government supporters.
“People illegally living abroad are opposition supporters, because they got in this situation exactly because of the social policy of the government and they didn’t have any other way to survive. After Ivanishvili’s appearance our diaspora became active abroad, when they saw that many people registered for elections and their number was daily increasing, they made such a decision and now this way it will be impossible for these people to participate in the elections,” says Kakhi Kakhishvili, chair of Research Center of Elections and Political technologies.
He says that when these people started registering, at first there was a problem about the server in Georgia and each person had to wait for one hour to register. Kakhishvili assumes that it was first attempt of government to interrupt these people’s right to vote.
He says the problems created by the new rules are twofold. On the one hand, people living illegally abroad won’t be able to present a document about where they live because they will want to avoid problems with living there, and so they won’t vote. On the other hand, if a person does present such a document, embassies will know their address and they may interfere in them making a decision during elections.
Foreign Affairs Ministry doesn’t make any comments why it was necessary to establish this rule.
Davit Bakradze, Georgia’s Parliament Speaker, promises that no normative act will be adopted which restricts a person’s right to vote, but also notes that he is not familiar with this new decree.
“If there really is such a document which can be related to this concern we are absolutely open for discussion,” he said, adding that there are inter-agency groups and NGOs for this and the government will be ready to have additional discussions.