President Saakashvili is expected to nominate three candidates for chairmanship of Central Election Commission (CEC) on January 10 – two days later of a deadline set by the law.
Deputy head of the president’s administration met with a group of civil society representatives on January 8 to discuss possible candidates and also to arrange a meeting between them and President Saakashvili.
It emerged after the meeting that the President would nominate three candidates after he meets with the civil society representatives in Batumi on January 10, after Saakashvili returns from Munich.
The election code, as emended by the Parliament late last month and posted on the Central Election Commission’s website, explicitly says: “The Georgian President launched consultations with non-governmental organizations to select three candidates for the CEC chairmanship; after that the Georgian President selects and nominates three candidates to the CEC no later than January 8, 2010.”
Levan Tarkhnishvili, an acting chairman of the Central Election Commission, acknowledged that the failure to meet the deadline by the President was a violation of procedures as set by the law. He, however, described it as “a minor violation.”
“Of course it’s a minor violation; not so significant that may question the entire process. That is a price required for selection [of candidates],” Tarkhnishvili told Civil.Ge.
He also said that he would not make “pessimistic forecasts” that the entire process of electing new chairman might be thwarted because of this failure to meet the deadline. He said “the major deadline” was January 11, when the opposition members from CEC should elect the new chairman.
According to the emended election code, it is up to the opposition members of CEC to elect the commission chairman no later than January 11 from three candidates nominated by the President after the consultations with the civil society organizations.
If by January 11 the CEC members fail to elect a chairman, the issue will then move to the Parliament and lawmakers, according to the law, will have to elect one from the three candidates within seven days.
Levan Tarkhnishvili, who chairs CEC since October, 2007, according to the law is an acting chairman starting from January 1, 2010. The emended election code says that the acting chairman should retain the post before the new one is elected. Tarkhnishvili said that theoretically, if the entire process of selecting the new chairman is thwarted, he could retain the post.
The issue of deadline was not raised by anyone and was not at all discussed at the meeting in the president’s administration, according to participants of the meeting with whom Civil.Ge spoke.
Tamar Khidasheli, head of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), who was among the participants of the meeting, acknowledged that at the time of the meeting with the administration officials, she was not aware of this clause of the law. Later on January 8, after reviewing this provision of the law she told Civil.Ge that the law in part of deadlines “has been definitely violated.” She also said that consultations were already ongoing among legal experts how to overcome this legal controversy.
It also emerged after the January 8 meeting between the president administration officials and civil society representatives that a group of about dozen non-governmental organizations would lobby for nomination of Eka Siradze, an executive director of election watchdog International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED). GYAL is among the organizations supporting Siradze’s nomination.
Other possible candidates, lobbied by some other groups reportedly include Zurab Kharatishvili. He was a member of a group within CEC, which was monitoring political parties’ electoral campaign funds in 2008 elections. Another potential candidate is Gia Jandieri, a vice-president of Tbilisi-based think-tank New Economic School - Georgia.