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CEC Cuts Number of Polling Stations with Cameras
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 6 Apr.'10 / 16:01

Central Election Commission (CEC) has decided to reduce number of those polling stations by 200 where video cameras will be installed to record election day procedures during May 30 local elections.

CEC decided on April 3 that video cameras will be installed only at the polling stations in Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi.

CEC cited a recommendation by Council of Europe’s (CoE) advisory body for legal and constitutional issues, Venice Commission and OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

In their joint draft opinion released last October on Georgia’s election code, ODIHR and Venice Commission said that they “do not recommend use of video cameras in polling stations due to possible intimidation of voters, even if video cameras are not directed at polling booths.”

As in the 2006 local elections, some thousand polling stations were equipped with two video cameras each during the January 5, 2008 presidential election. The same practice was used during the May 21 parliamentary elections in 2008. There have been cases, however, when the opposition was complaining about limited access to the recorded footage and absence of cameras in those polling stations where most irregularities were occurring.

Last February the New Rights and Republican opposition parties presented their views on election code amendments, which were met mainly positively by other opposition groups and which, among other issues, were also calling for installing cameras at all polling stations with full and unrestricted access to video recordings.

In its final report on January 5, 2008 presidential elections, OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission said that at 63 polling stations, visited by the mission observers, “the placement of the video cameras was such that it did not ensure the secrecy of the vote.” A similar report, covering May 21, 2008 parliamentary elections, contains no such observation.

According to the law, election observers and other election stake-holders present at a polling station have the right to access polling station footage, but they have to indicate a concrete time for an alleged violation and will only be given access to that particular, 15-minute portion of the footage, according to the amendments.

In its final report on May 21 parliamentary elections, OSCE/ODIHR recommended CEC to provide “unrestricted access to official footage at the request of any complainants or public bodies” should video surveillance cameras continue to be used.

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