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Amendments to Election Code Planned
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Jul.'13 / 20:10

Parliament will discuss this month draft of amendments to the election code, which among other issues, also envisage moving the Inter-Agency Task Force for Free and Fair Elections (IATF) from the National Security Council under the Ministry of Justice.

In other proposed changes the bill also includes few amendments related to misuse of administrative resources and new regulations on campaigning in an immediate vicinity of polling stations on the election day.

The draft, developed in frames of a parliamentary inter-faction group, was presented by the group’s chairman, Georgian Dream MP Zakaria Kutsnashvili, on July 17.

IATF, chaired by Secretary of National Security Council Giga Bokeria and composed of members from various government ministries, is a body gathering ahead of elections to monitor and react on reported electoral violations during the campaigning. According to the election code, in case of violations, the inter-agency task force has to “recommend” state agencies to take “relevant actions in a reasonable timeframe.” According to a report by international election observers from OSCE, who were monitoring October 2012 parliamentary polls, throughout the electoral campaign, the IATF “proved a useful forum for the review of concerns raised by stakeholders.”

Ahead of the April 27 MP by-elections opinion within IATF over specific cases was often split with government representatives in the commission frequently disagreeing with its chair Giga Bokeria, as a result the latter was often issuing his separate recommendations.

Commenting on the proposal to move IATF from NSC under the Ministry of Justice, Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili suggested that previously it was justified presence of IATF under the National Security Council (NSC) because secretary of NSC Giga Bokeria, owing to his political influence under the previous government, was better placed to promptly react to reported violations and to coordinate response with various government agencies.

“For this upcoming [presidential] election, we need this group [IATF] to be under such a state official who will be able to do the same. So, we will weigh whether currently this is the Secretary of the Security Council or the Justice Minister who can promptly settle problems,” Usupashvili told journalists on July 17.

UNM, whose representatives were also part of the inter-faction group working on the draft of amendments to the election code, said that it prefers IATF to remain under the NSC, but as far as GD was against it was offering to move it under the Prime Minister or at least under the Deputy PM in order to give IATF even more influence.

“Civil society groups and political parties wanted [IATF] to be moved under the Prime Minister, but the Prime Minister’s position was that it would not be right to interfere in this issue,” GD MP Zakaria Kutsnashvili said on July 17 while presenting draft of amendments to the election code.

Tamar Kintsurashvili, deputy chairperson of NSC and a member of IATF, said that it’s not of prime importance where this body remains. “What matters is that the format to be able to tackle existing challenges, which were laid out in the recommendations by the chairman of [IATF Giga Bokeria]; that includes [addressing] violence against the opposition and various minority groups and lack of adequate investigation of such cases; politically-motivated legal proceedings and sending political leader to pretrial detention, which hampers holding of the elections in free and fair environment,” she said.

The proposed draft of amendments includes number of provisions aimed at, as the authors say, tightening measures against misuse of administrative resources.

Among the proposed measures are: banning use of vehicles, owned by the local or central government agencies, during the campaigning; banning use of events, funded from the state budget, for the campaign purposes. 

The proposed draft also includes a provision banning campaigning on the election day within 20 meter radius from the polling station. Violation of this rule, according to proposal, will carry financial penalty of GEL 500. The Central Election Commission spoke out against this proposal saying that it will be difficult to enforce this provision and will only increase number of “problematic complaints.”

The proposed amendments also list those officials, who have to quite their office in case of running for the president; the list, among others, includes: government ministers; governors; chairpersons of city councils (Sakrebulo); mayors and heads of municipalities; chief state auditor; public defender; judges; prosecutors; members of NSC. GD’s presidential candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili, who is the education minister, said he will resign even though now the law does not obligate to step down from the minister’s post.

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