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Georgia Has Shanghaied Its Flagship of State with Rigged Elections

01.07.2008
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CoE) Election Report

By Jeffrey K. Silverman, Georgian Human Rights Centre

 (HRIDC)

 “I wonder if CoE are talking about the same parliamentary elections - or was this report from another country and they [CoE] used the cut and paste function in its production; it is clear that PACE didn’t see or didn’t want to see some of the more blatant violations - and it does not understand that democracy is a far cry from being alive and well in Georgia.”
 
On June 25, discussions were held at the Council of Europe (CoE) about the recent Georgian May 21 parliamentary elections. The range of election reports proffered by international organizations brings to light many questions and inherent contradictions; there also appears to be a wide gap between reality and the political rhetoric, at least when the findings are compared with a domestic report of the same parliamentary elections that was prepared by the Human Rights Centre (HRIDC) in Tbilisi, a local NGO.
 
The Bureau of the Assembly of the CoE established an Ad hoc committee of 30 members to observe the parliamentary elections in Georgia on May 21, 2008. Mr Mátyás Eörsi (ALDE, Hungary) as Chairperson of this Ad hoc committee has since hailed the parliamentary elections as a success. However, it did make some recommendations to the Georgian government as how to improve things in the future.  Matyas Eorsi observed the Georgian elections as the head of the PACE delegation.  
 
Eorsi welcomed the lowering of the election barrier from 7 to 5% for political parties, but underlined that the tension among political opponents had to be reduced prior to future elections. However, he said he favored launching of a dialog between the authorities and some parts of the political opposition.
 
Prior to this year’s parliamentary election he met with various representatives of political parties, civil society, as well as local observers. In spite of this, there appears to be a great difference in how the same election was perceived by local NGOs, including the Human Rights Centre, which that has released an alternative election report in early June, Georgia’s Parliamentary Elections – “Unprecedented Brutality and Election Fraud.” This monitoring report can be found on its website
www.humanrights.ge 

The Parliamentary Assembly of Europe concluded that these elections clearly offered an opportunity for the Georgian people to choose their representatives from amongst a wide array of choices. The authorities and other political stakeholders made efforts to conduct these elections in line with the OSCE and Council of Europe commitments. However, the International Election Observation Mission identified a number of problems which made this implementation uneven and incomplete.

It was noted that the elections took place in a severely polarized political climate, characterised by a considerable lack of trust between the contesting parties and low-level confidence among the population towards the electoral process. The effects of the domestic crisis of November 2007 continued to be perceivable, albeit less strongly than before the Presidential Election of 5 January 2008.

Mention was also made of Russia’s moves to unilaterally upgrade its political and military ties with Georgia’s separatist regions, following Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in February and NATO’s assurances of Georgia’s eventual membership in the Alliance at the Bucharest Summit (Membership Action Plan Status) in April, and how this situation had radicalised the political environment even further.

Whether an excuse or not, the claim is made in the PACE report that the government was forced to simultaneously deal with both the threat to national security and territorial integrity and the complex process of electoral and political reform, which plays a decisive role, and not only for consolidating democracy but also for its relationship with Euro-Atlantic institutions.

This begs the question as whether or not striving for membership in such Euro-Atlantic institutions and NATO MAP status causes concerns about the integrity of outside election reports. In this line of thought, [these reports] are actually written based on larger geopolitical expediency. In fact, they do not reflect the actual political reality and the endemic culture of election fraud and vote rigging that Georgia has experienced. 

It is noteworthy that the Ad hoc committee is concerned about the seriously low level of confidence of the public in the election process in Georgia. Furthermore, how the last-minute changes of the electoral system – which implied politically motivated actions prior to the elections, the absence of consensus between the main political stakeholders on the most important elements of the electoral system (regardless of who is responsible for the failure of negotiations on this matter). It is clear that that there is now a very low level of public confidence in the election process.

Without deep trust in the electoral system and in the election administration it is impossible to have free and fair elections. In this regard, regrettably, these elections did not make full use of the democratic potential of Georgian citizens.

In restoring public confidence in the democratic process in Georgia, the Ad hoc committee recommends that the following steps be taken:

• The Central Election Commission and the relevant committee of the newly elected parliament should evaluate, in close cooperation with international and domestic non-party NGOs involved in the elections process, the amended election code in the light of the problems identified during the 2008 Extraordinary Presidential and Parliamentary elections;
• The newly elected Parliament should initiate, as soon as all political forces join the work of the Parliament, a fully transparent and credible process of consultations with a view to a substantial revision of electoral legislation that would take into account all previous recommendations and elaborate an ultimate system that would provide conditions for the conduct of fully free and fair elections. This process should be based on an as broad a public consensus as possible and aimed to be terminated in 2008, well ahead of the local elections to be held in 2010;

• The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe should be involved in this reform work from the outset;
• More specifically, the single-mandate constituency boundaries should be bought in line with the principle of equality of vote;
• The voters list should be continued to be scrupulously updated at regular intervals until next elections;
• The procedure of complaints and appeals system should be extended time wise so as to allow complainants sufficient time for submitting complaints and the different instances ample time for procedural fairness. To this end, it could be considered to extend the constitutional provision on summoning the parliament to 30 days after the election date;
• All proved cases of violations of the election legislation must be investigated without exception and the public should be informed about the concrete results of such investigations.

The report recently published by the Human Rights Centre, June 2008. “Georgia’s Parliamentary Election” gives an alternative and less flattering view of the outcome of the parliamentary elections.  This report is diametrically opposite in many key aspects to the PACE election report, and concludes that the election should be annulled as it were neither free nor fair [rife with corruption] – and the election did not confirm to any semblance of a democratic society, a conclusion that is also inferred by recent statements by Javier Solana, EU high representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy.

It has been reported in the mass media that he is dissatisfied with the quality of democracy in Georgia, especially in light of his comments on French Radio in May about human rights violations in Georgian and how both the Extraordinary Presidential and Parliamentary elections were held with many violations. Moreover, he noted how Georgian still holds political prisoners and how the media is under the control or influence of the government.

The PACE report did, however, in the “weakest language” claim that it identified a number of problems which made the recent election to fall short of the standard of the International Election Observation Mission, which resulted in an uneven and incomplete implementation of the election.

The current tragedy of Georgian elections is seen in the downfall in the evolution of the country’s democratic processes and institutions. A country that had been known for its initial reforms following the Rose Revolution and heralded throughout the world as a beacon of democracy has reverted to the political status of an evolving third world dictatorship with single party rule, such as Zimbabwe. 
The PACE report also failed to mention the political related violence that started before the elections, reached a peak on Election Day, and which continues with beatings, threats, and other punitive measures in the uncertain and agitated post election period.
The funds lavished on the military/police/special forces/intelligence sectors for the better part of 4 years after the Rose Revolution has had an impact on election outcomes. There is greater abridgement of freedom of the press and the curtailment of basic human rights. Concomitant with the Opposition crackdown back in November of 2007 and the subsequent rigging of parliamentary elections has the equivalent of an internal governmental coup d’etat taken place; and it now is evident that the Saakashvili Administration has effectively shanghaied its own Ship of State with the results of the recent Parliamentary Elections of May 21, 2008.
Georgian civil society needs to be more active and focused when it comes to monitoring the observance of the standards set by international practice and under acting Georgian election legislation.  It will take many years and a concerted effort by many stakeholders to restore public confidence in democratic-election procedures in Georgia.
The Georgian Human Rights Centre (HRIDC) hope the details and facts and case studies contained within our alternative election report make it clear and transparent to all, both within and outside of Georgia, that much work is needed before Georgia will be able to tout democracy as a reality.

 

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Name: Mark
2010-09-01 03:22
Is jeffrey silverman messing with the neo cons. big time. dangerously, in fact, they are babies.
yeah, they can kill us, but they are shrimps in the world order.
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