President Saakashvili said on January 4 he was "really interested in holding clean" parliamentary elections in October.
"This is a very important year, because a very serious election, parliamentary election, will be held," he said in televised remarks while meeting with chairman of Central Election Commission (CEC) Zurab Kharatishvili.
"The good thing that happened is that actually a good electoral deal has been achieved," Saakashvili said, referring to an agreement reached between his ruling party and a parliamentary minority group, plus New Rights Party.
"I liked it most that the Venice Commission evaluated it [new electoral code] highly. The only issue on which we could not agree is that they [apparently referring to the Venice Commission] wanted small [single-mandate majoritarian] constituencies, like Kazbegi or Lentekhi, not to have thier own [majoritarian] MPs," Saakashvili said, adding that it was unacceptable for Georgia.
What the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal and constitutional affairs, Venice Commission, has long been recommending Georgia is to secure equality of vote through establishing approximately equal sized single-mandate, majoritarian constituencies. Wide disparity between the single-mandate constituencies - ranging from about 6,000 voters in the smallest constituency to over 150,000 voters in the largest one – is not addressed in the new election code.
The Venice Commission said in mid-December in its recommendations on Georgia's electoral code: "The mixed [majoritarian and party-list, proportional] electoral system chosen in Georgia, as such, is in line with international standards. However, it has hitherto not been possible to provide for constituencies of an approximately equal size in Georgia and, thus, to guarantee the equality of the vote within the framework of the mixed system. The Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR recommend that the electoral system for both parliamentary and local self-government elections be reviewed in order to ensure the equality of suffrage."
The same issue was raised in the U.S. embassy's statement on the electoral legislation in which it expressed regret that there "was no agreement on elements of the new code that would have addressed lingering perceptions on inequality within the electoral system.”
"We have our historical and geographical peculiarities, which do not probably exactly fit into thier [referring to the Venice Commission] taste, but in all the other issues we have received high marks both on this [electoral] code and on the legislation regarding the [political party] funding. It is very important that all these are based on firm international standards," Saakashvili said.
Head of the EU delegation in Georgia, Philip Dimitrov, welcomed that some of the recommendations from the Venice Commission were reflected in the new electoral code and party funding legislation, but also said that some provisions may raise disputes and "thus give grounds for questioning the fairness of the elections."
Saakashvili also said on January 4, that Georgia should invite for monitoring electoral process as many international observers as possible.
"At least nine months are left before [the parliamentary] elections - this is more than enough time... for everyone to engage [in the process]; let's carry out long-term monitoring; [it's enough time] for every party to prepare properly," Saakashvili said.
"Now I am not speaking as a leader of the [ruing] National Movement party; as a President I am really interested in holding clean elections," he said.
Saakashvili also said that creating "transparent and equal electoral process" would represent "one of the key achievements of our epoch."
He said that while some of the previous elections in recent years were snap ones, now Georgia was "entering into the stable constitutional cycle and there are no factors in the country" that would cause to depart away from this cycle.
Saakashvili praised the CEC chairman for holding May 30, 2010 local elections, as he put it, actually faultlessly. "No other CEC chairman achieved such result," Saakashvili said.
Kharatishvili said that CEC possesses enough financial and human resources to secure holding of an election which "the Georgian society deserves."