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Planned Court Appeal Revives Election Date Debate
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 16 Feb.'12 / 17:10

A Tbilisi-based election observer non-governmental organization, New Generation-New Initiative (nGnI), announced on February 16 about having an intention to appeal the Constitutional Court over elections date as it believes parliamentary polls should be held this spring not in October as now scheduled.

nGnI, which has been co-founded in 2003 by Koki Ionatamishvili who is now a member of Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) from the ruling National Movement party, says that the sitting Parliament was elected for four-year term as a result of election held in May, 2008 and holding of parliamentary election in October, 2012 would illegally extend the sitting legislative body’s term in office for several months.

nGnI said, that the same applies to the date of presidential election. nGnI chairman Mikheil Devdariani said on February 16, that in case of holding presidential election in October, 2013 as it is currently envisaged, President Saakashvili’s term in office would be extended for about ten months. Saakashvili was elected for his second and final five-year term in January, 2008 early presidential election.

Mikheil Devdariani of nGnI says that if the Constitutional Court rules positively on his organization’s appeal – taking into account that the court has thirty days to give its ruling – parliamentary election may be held in late May or early June.

Such a scenario has been ruled out by a ruling party lawmaker, Giorgi Gabashvili, who said on February 16, that he was “100 per cent sure that elections will be held in October” as scheduled because he did not believe the existing date was in conflict with law or constitution.

Ruling party lawmaker Pavle Kublashvili, who chairs parliamentary committee for legal affairs, said the planned court appeal was “totally groundless” and added that elections should be held as scheduled in October.

After the announcement was made by nGnI, some opposition politicians suggested that there might be the ruling party’s hidden hand behind the planned court appeal, indicating on past affiliation of ruling party figure Koki Ionatamishvili to nGnI.

Zurab Abashidze of Our Georgia-Free Democrats, a party in coalition with billionaire opposition politician Bidzina Ivanishvili said, that the coalition was ready for any challenge.

“The most important is to hold elections in legal dates and if [spring] is such [date] we are ready to run and defeat this government at any time, including in May. That’s the position of our coalition,” Abashidze was quoted by Georgian news agency InterPressNews.

“We are ready for such a scenario,” Davit Zurabishvili of Republican Party, part of Ivanishvili’s coalition, said. “If elections are held in May it means that this government will be over earlier.”

MP Giorgi Akhvlediani of the Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) said that it was not in opposition’s interests to hold parliamentary elections in spring, because the only party capable of running an effective campaign in case of holding elections in spring was the ruling National movement. No other party is ready for elections in spring, MP Akhvlediani said on February 16. He also stressed that holding of election in spring would not allow a special commission in charge of verifying voters’ list to complete its work. August 1, 2012 is a deadline for the commission to complete its work; the deadline was prolonged from initially set July 1.

This is not the first time in recent years when date of elections becomes a source of debate in Georgia. Less than five years ago the date of parliamentary election was one of the key issues in opposition’s campaign, which eventually resulted into street protest rallies.
 
Back in 2007 a large opposition coalition, which included some of those parties and politicians which remain active on the political scene now, some of them are now allies of billionaire opposition politician Bidzina Ivanishvili, launched a campaign for holding of elections in spring 2008 instead of autumn of that year as at the time it was envisaged by the constitution. The opposition coalition at the time was citing that holding of elections in autumn would have illegitimately extended the Parliament’s term in office.

Holding of elections in spring, 2008 was one of the four demands which the opposition coalition tried to push for through street protest rallies in November, 2007. Those protest rallies came to a violent end when the riot police broke up the demonstrations on November 7, 2007, followed by President Saakashvili’s resignation and snap presidential election in January. Simultaneously with early election a plebiscite was also held in January, 2008 in which voters decided to hold parliamentary elections in spring, 2008. As a result the current Parliament was elected in May, 2008.

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