|Zurab Tchiaberashvili: Tbilisi’s new Mayor
and former Chairman of the CEC.
Zurab Tchiaberashvili, 32, was appointed as the Chairman of the Central Election Commission last November. Before appointment he was running election observer NGO.
The March 28 elections were overshadowed by the polls in defiant Adjarian Autonomous Republic. Adjara also topped agenda during the post-election period. The CEC’s controversial decision over cancellation of the election results in Adjara’s two districts – Khulo and Kobuleti, further complicated situation and triggered more protests from the Adjarian leadership. The CEC Chairman was barred from entering the Autonomy and then repeat elections scheduled in Adjara’s two districts on April 18 were disrupted.
Q.: How would you evaluate the 28 March parliamentary elections?
A.: Progress was quite obvious at these elections compared with previous ones. In comparison with the January 4 presidential elections, the situation has changed for better in several directions.
The first one is related to voter lists. The most important is that the voter lists were computerized. As a result of these two elections we have received the optimal version of voter lists. The professionalism of the election administration members has significantly increased during this period of time, however much is to be done in this regard.
The pre-election period was rather smooth as well. Actually not a single decision of the Central Election Commission, during the pre-election period, was appealed in court. The elections day passed in a normal atmosphere as well. I personally never expected such order on the elections day.
As for the post-election period, not everything was in order. We have succeeded to announce the preliminary results of the elections two days after the polls; it was an unprecedented case. However, the consequent processes, such as reacting on violations and cancellation of results at various polling stations have triggered discontent of society, thus causing certain damage to the image of elections. However, as a whole, it may be said, that progress was achieved. Still, much is to be done to increase the skills of election administrations.
Q.: Was there any case of pressure from the political parties/government on the Central Election Commission?
A.: Not a single political party has put pressure. If we would considers that the Adjarian authorities and the Revival Union are one the same, it may be said, that they really put particular pressure.
Q.: The CEC’s decision to cancel election results in Adjara’s two districts – Khulo and Kobuleti and to appoint repeat elections there sparked major controversy. Many legal experts and election observers think that it was illegal and politically-motivated decision.
A.: I think the CEC decision was absolutely justified. Mass irregularities were reported on these election districts; as a result the CEC gave a chance to the local population to express freely their opinion during repeat elections. The Adjarian authorities and their leader Aslan Abashidze deprived them of this right.
Q.: Election observers reported similar irregularities at the polling stations of Kvemo Kartli region. Why the results of election districts in Kvemo Kartli were not canceled?
A.: In Khulo and Kobuleti more than a half of polling stations were cancelled, that finally caused the cancellation of the results of the entire election district. While, in Kvemo Kartli the results of more than a half of polling stations were not annulled, so the results of the entire election district could not have been annulled. However, on a basis of the lawsuits filed by the Georgian Young Lawyers Association [organization, which observed March 28 elections] a great part of polling stations in Marneuli, Gardabani and Bolnisi districts were cancelled.
Q.: Basically what kind of violations was reported on March 28 parliamentary elections?
A.: We did our utmost to hold normal elections. However, we do not intend to tolerate violations reported during elections. That is why we have annulled the results of 150 polling stations.
Major violations were related to the interference of unauthorized persons in the election process, as well as to ballot stuffing, and the attempts of multiple vote, or as it is known ‘merry-go-round,’ when one person casts ballot for several times in different polling stations. Such violations were basically reported in Adjara and Kvemo Kartli regions.
We have already classified the violations and submitted to the General Prosecutor’s Office.
Q.: You have also requested the General Prosecutor’s Office to investigate violations during the previous elections. But no one was held responsible so far.
A.: From November 2, 2003 [parliamentary elections] to January 4, 2004 [snap presidential elections] the prosecutor’s office has brought 61 criminal charges, a part of them has already been delivered to the court. However, along with the Central Election Commission, the society and the Parliament are also obliged to remain watchful over the prosecutor’s office activity in this regard.
Q.: What are the plans of the CEC?
We are trying to endorse a draft which considers reformation of the election administrations, including the Central Election Commission. However, now everything depends on the new Parliament, which should approve the proposal. We intend to acquaint the society with the details of the reforms.
We have tested this concept at experimental polling station in Tbilisi [which, unlike other polling stations around Georgia, was composed by the young non-partisan people]. The society saw that young people, who composed the polling station, who were not representatives of the political parties, have succeeded to hold free and fair elections. I think, CEC consisting of 5-7 non-partisan persons will be able to perfectly organize the elections.