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Saakashvili Called to Change Election Date
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 3 Jul.'13 / 20:20

A group of human rights, election watchdog and legal advocacy organizations have called on President Saakashvili to change presidential election date from October 31, which is Thursday, to other date which will fall on Sunday instead of midweek to help higher voter turnout including among Georgians living abroad.

Although according to article 6 of the election code, election day will be declared a public holiday in Georgia, holding of election in midweek will create “serious problems” to Georgian expatriates, the statement by twelve non-governmental organizations reads.

“It is actually impossible for them to exercise their right to vote in the condition when elections are held on working day… This problem became obvious during October 1, 2012 [Monday] parliamentary elections as well.”

“Holding of elections in midweek also represents an impediment to some extent for voters living in Georgia, because in order to cast ballot a voter should go [to a polling station] where [voter] is registered and often it implies traveling from one town to another for which declaring one day as public holiday is not enough.”

“We believe that the Georgian President should exercise his right to set the date of election in a way that will maximally contribute to voter turnout both within and outside the country,” the statement reads.

The statement was signed by International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy; Transparency International Georgia; Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association; 42 Article of the Constitution; Multinational Georgia; Human Rights Center; Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center; Georgian Democracy Initiative; Center of Development and Democracy; Election and Political Technologies Research Center; Civil Society and Democracy Development Center; and Public Advocacy.

Responding to this statement, President Saakashvili said that he had instructed chief of his administration to meet representatives from the non-governmental organizations “to listen to their arguments.”

Saakashvili said that October, 2012 parliamentary elections were held on Monday and there was “a record high” voter turnout, including among Georgians living abroad.

“I’ve listened well to the arguments of the non-governmental organizations, which have some issues related to participation in elections of our compatriots living abroad and although there are no technical problems… I have instructed chief of [president’s] administration [Andro] Barnovi to meet representatives of the non-governmental organizations and to listen once again to their arguments, because of course we are not fixated on any particular date,” Saakashvili said.

Earlier on July 3, President Saakashvili met chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), Zurab Kharatishvili, who said that CEC is ready to administer upcoming presidential elections “as well as it was done in case of the last October’s parliamentary elections.”

According to the constitution presidential elections should be held in October, 2013.

It’s up to the incumbent President to set an exact date.

On July 1 President’s office initially announced October 27 (Sunday) as the presidential election date, but few hours later changed it into October 31 (Thursday), citing “a technical mistake.”

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