A decision by chairman of the Central Election Commission, Zurab Kharatishvili, to resign eleven weeks before the presidential election has been criticized by senior Georgian Dream figures as “ill-timed.”
Kharatishvili filed resignation on August 12 without giving reasons behind his decision.
CEC spokesperson said Kharatishvili would make a statement explaining the move on August 15.
Commenting on Kharatishvili’s decision PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said that timing was “wrong” and suggested that it was an attempt by UNM “to stir a little political intrigue.”
“Let him go,” said Ivanishvili when asked by journalists about CEC head’s resignation. “He is a member of their [referring to President Saakashvili and his party] political team and they are stirring some kind of intrigue again, but they will fail to do anything. Nothing will happen. Let Kharatishvili go and let others, who want, follow him. He quit at wrong time and it is clear that by doing so they stirred a little political intrigue.”
Speaking with journalists in the village of Nokalakevi in western Georgian region of Samegrelo from where GD’s presidential candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili launched his campaign on August 12, Ivanishvili said that he had met twice recently with Kharatishvili and “it seemed everything settled.” He also added that everything would go smoothly and “nobody will be able to turn Georgia upside down.”
Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, who chairs inter-agency commission for fair elections, said that Kharatishvili’s decision was “regrettable” and “incomprehensible”.
“If a person holding such an important post wanted to resign, he should have done it earlier – for example when the previous elections were held in an absolutely non-free environment. His resignation at this moment is absolutely beyond understanding and I think that he has chosen wrong time for that. I rule out that any pressure was exerted on him. On the contrary, I know that at last he, as the chairman of CEC, managed to establish cooperation and constructive dialogue with all the political parties. So I repeat that his decision is absolutely incomprehensible and it was done at wrong time,” Tsulukiani said.
Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Usupashvili, said: “The decision of the CEC chairman is a bit incomprehensible because if he is bored with this job and is now thinking about something else, he probably should have done it earlier or after the [October 27 presidential] election.”
GD MP Tina Khidasheli said resignation in the midst of electoral campaign was “irresponsible” on the part of CEC chairman.
“He should provide very serious arguments to explain why he took such an irresponsible step. I hope he had serious reasons for such a decision. I want to assure everyone that it won’t create any problems and elections will be held calmly in competitive environment,” GD MP Khidasheli said.
UNM presidential candidate, MP Davit Bakradze, said Kharatishvili’s decision was “regrettable because last year he managed to hold democratic elections through which peaceful power transfer occurred for the first time” in Georgia.
“So I think it is regrettable that he decided to resign, but it’s his personal decision,” MP Bakradze said.
UNM MP Giorgi Gabashvili said: “Personally for me this decision is incomprehensible, because few months remain before the elections and I think it was not the best time for [resignation].”
“Let’s wait for his explanation. I rule out any pressure on him from our side. If there was any pressure exerted on him from the government, we should know it,” MP Gabashvili said and added that Kharatishvili should make public if there was pressure from the government.
UNM MP Giorgi Vashadze said: “Resignation of the CEC chairman in the middle of electoral phase will definitely have a negative impact on the organizational matters of election process. Probably, there were a number of reasons because of which this person was not able to continue performing his duties.”
According to a report by international election observers from OSCE, who were monitoring October 2012 parliamentary polls, the CEC operated “efficiently and transparently”. Assuming responsibility for voter registration, as well as for media and campaign finance monitoring by other state institutions allowed the CEC to focus exclusively on the core task of election administration, “which it performed in a competent and professional manner,” according to the report.