The Central Election Commission (CEC) has prolonged deadline for registration of Georgian citizens living abroad from September 10 to September 13.
In order to cast ballot in the October 1 parliamentary elections, overseas voters have to undergo registration at the polling stations opened in Georgian embassies or consulates in 32 countries.
The registration requires no proof-of-residency and will be possible by submitting, either personally or through an authorized person, ID cards to the Georgian embassies or consulates where the polling stations are located.
The Georgian Dream opposition coalition, led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, has welcomed prolongation of the deadline, but said the process should become further easer by removing remaining hurdles such as requiring an overseas voter to arrive at an embassy or consulate in person or submit documents by an authorized representative. The Georgian Dream said it had appealed against this decision by CEC to the court, requesting to revoke this requirement; the Georgian Dream wants to include other methods of submitting documents, including such as sending papers via post.
Number of registered overseas voters, eligible to cast ballot, was not immediately available from the CEC on September 11.
Another issue, permanently highlighted by the Georgian Dream and also by groups of Georgian expatriates, in respect of overseas voting is the election’s date, October 1, which is Monday – a holiday in Georgia, but working day elsewhere; there have been calls to allow early voting for Georgians abroad over weekend. One more issue often raised in this regard is the need of opening more polling stations abroad. A campaign is ongoing by groups of Georgian expatriates in various countries demanding, among other issues, opening of additional polling stations, saying that for those, who live outside capital cities, where mainly the polling stations are located in embassies, it will be difficult to travel on a working day to a capital to cast ballot.
There are total of 40 polling stations in 38 cities of 32 countries – Russia is not among them.
“Opening an election precinct in Russia is definitely a problematic issue,” Nino Kalandadze, the Georgian deputy foreign minister, said on September 10. “We have been discussing this issue a lot. But in the condition of not having diplomatic relations it is very difficult to technically provide safe conditions for holding elections.”
Georgia and Russia have no diplomatic relations since the August, 2008 war and the two countries communicate mainly through Swiss diplomats.
The largest number of polling stations in a single country is in Greece – two in the capital Athens and two others in the country’s second biggest city of Thessaloniki .
There are three polling stations in Turkey – Ankara, Istanbul and Trabzon; three in Ukraine – Kiev, Odessa and Donetsk; two in the United States – Washington D.C. and New York.
There is one polling station in each of the following cities of 28 countries: Vienna; Baku; Minsk; Brussels; Sofia; Berlin; Copenhagen; London; Cairo; Madrid; Tallinn; Tel-Aviv; Rome; Nicosia; Riga; Vilnius; The Hague; Warsaw; Bucharest; Paris; Bratislava; Yerevan; Tashkent; Al-Kuwait; Astana; Stockholm; Bern and Prague.
In addition the CEC has also established two special polling stations in Afghanistan for the Georgian soldiers serving there – both of the polling stations are in the Helmand province.