Chairman of the Central Election Commission, Zurab Kharatishvili, filed for resignation on August 12, eleven weeks before the presidential elections.
Kharatishvili, who was elected as CEC chairman for a five-year term by the previous Parliament in January 2010, has yet to specify reasons behind his decision.
A spokesperson for the CEC, Eka Azarashvili, said: “As far as I know Zurab Kharatishvili plans to make a statement and to explain why he took this decision on August 15.”
According to the law, President Saakashvili should select and nominate three candidates for the vacant post of CEC chair after consultations with the civil society groups within 15 days from resignation of CEC chairman.
The election code says that it is then up to CEC members to select one out of these three candidate; but the law also says that only those members of the CEC are eligible to vote, which are appointed by political parties.
13-seat CEC consists of its chairman; five certified election official, selected by the President and confirmed by the Parliament (all current five certified members of CEC were confirmed by the previous Parliament) and seven members appointed by those political parties which had best results in the last parliamentary elections.
Current distribution of seven seats, allocated to political parties, is determined by the October 2012 parliamentary elections, hence six sits are allocated to representatives of six parties, which make up PM Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream coalition, and one seat is allocated to President Saakashvili’s UNM party.
But according to the election code all party-appointed CEC members “except of a member who is appointed by a party which had the best result in the last parliamentary elections” should be eligible to vote while selecting new CEC chairman.
This provision was introduced in December, 2009 and was tailored to the political situation existing at the time, when UNM was the ruling party; the amendment was viewed as a compromise to then opposition parties and aimed at excluding UNM-appointed CEC member from the process of electing new chairman of the commission. But now not “a party”, as indicated in the election code, but the electoral bloc, consisting of six parties, has the best results in the last parliamentary elections. The single party, not the election bloc, which has the best election result in the last parliamentary election, is UNM, so its CEC member might be excluded from election of new chairman.
According to the law, at least four votes of party-appointed CEC members are needed for a candidate to win the chairmanship seat, otherwise the process moves to the Parliament, which has to elect one out of three candidates selected by the President. This scenario played out back in January 2010 when non-UNM-appointed CEC members failed to elect new chairman and Kharatishvili was elected by the Parliament.