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Some Watchdogs Snub Planned Voter List Commission

03.10.2011

Three watchdog groups have refused to be part of the planned commission in charge of verifying and compiling the voters list ahead of the next year’s parliamentary elections.
 
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED); Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) and Transparency International Georgia, the groups regularly monitoring electoral-related developments and elections in the country, say joining such commission would amount to taking responsibility for compiling the voters list – something they view as being far beyond their mandate.
 
According to the draft amendment to the election code, the voters list, approved by the planned state-funded commission, chaired by opposition representative, after rechecking process and submitted to the Central Election Commission, will “represent unified list of voters.” Setting up of the commission was part of an electoral system reform deal reached between the ruling party and some opposition parties in July.

Earlier this week Parliament passed this amendment with first reading. The Parliament, however, failed to pass the amendment with its second reading at the session on September 30 because of the absence of a quorum.

Discussions on the amendment in the Parliament grew mainly into a dispute between the small parliamentary minority group, led by Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) and other opposition lawmakers from newly formed faction, Unity for Justice, who are not part of the minority group in the Parliament.

The draft amendment is formally sponsored by CDM, which joined the electoral reform deal with the ruling party in July; those who refused to join the deal were pushing for drawing up the voter registry based on biometric identification system. Opposition parties, which have joined the deal, argue that setting up of a commission was the best possible compromise, otherwise the opposition would have been left empty-handed; they say that the commission will give opposition parties a possibility to have their say in drawing up the voters list.

The draft says that 21-member commission should be composed on the parity basis by representatives from the authorities, opposition parties and the civil society organizations – meaning that each of these three groups will have seven representatives in the commission. But as a sponsor of the draft, MP Levan Vepkhvadze of CDM, said he would be in favor of increasing seats in the commission to allow more stakeholders to join the commission.

“I cannot say that you will falsify these lists together… but we do not trust you,” – the leader of Qartuli Dasi, deputy Jondi Baghaturia from the faction Unity for Justice stated to his colleague.

Three leading organizations are skeptical towards the work of the commission and are not going to participate in it.

New executive director of Fair Elections, Nino Lomjaria stated to civil.ge on September 30th that “the mandate and competence of her organization is not taking responsibility for the formation of election lists.”

“We do not agree with the existing wording of these changes because we think that the lists must be formed by a permanent body,” – she stated and added that Fair Elections plans to monitor the lists again in future.

GYLA and Transparency International have the same position.

“We do not think it is right to create a new institution comprised of political parties and NGOs,” – the parliamentary secretary of GYLA Tatuli Todua stated to civil.ge, “this is a function of permanent body such as public registry and not the commission created for single purpose the functions and authority of which towards the Central Electoral Commission and Public Registry are not fully precise.”

The head of Legal Issues Committee of Parliament Pavle Kublashvili stated that he understands “the choice” of these organizations, however he added that “there will be other NGOs which will participate” in the work of commission.

“It is up to them to decide what they prefer – to have a long time before the elections to work on the issues of this list or to present their remarks a little before the elections that “the list is not good,” – Kublashvili, deputy from the governing party stated to civil.ge.

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