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Draft law on Georgian Electoral Commission composition dismissed by election monitors

(May 8, 2023)

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EPDE member International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy – ISFED in alliance with Transparency International Georgia issued a statement on the draft law concerning changes to the composition rule of the Central Election Commission (CEC). The statement reads:

 

On May 8, 2023, the parliamentary majority submitted a draft law to the parliamentary bureau, proposing the amendment to the Central Election Commission’s (CEC) composition rule. If adopted, the authority to select and nominate candidates for the position of chairperson and professional members of the CEC will be moved from the President to the Chairperson of the Parliament. Moreover, the number of votes needed to elect the candidates for a full term (5 years) will be reduced to a simple majority of the Parliament from the current two-thirds majority.

The proposed changes will further shrink the CEC’s independence, enhance the ruling party’s influence on it, and significantly diminish the President’s role in the process of electing the CEC members. Ensuring that the composition of the election administration is based on inter-party consensus is also one of the key issues for the upcoming 2024 Parliamentary elections. Furthermore, the proposed draft law contradicts the 2021 April 19th  political agreement, the Venice Commission/OSCE-ODIHR recommendations, and one of the EU’s 12-point conditions for granting the membership candidate status to Georgia.

The draft law submitted to the Georgian legislature proposes changes to Georgia’s Election Code and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia. More specifically, the number of votes needed to elect professional members of the CEC for a full term of 5 years will be reduced. Instead of the currently required ⅔ parliamentary majority, the chairperson and 7 professional members will be elected with a simple parliamentary majority.  

Moreover, the draft law curtails the role of the President in selecting the CEC members. The authority to set up a selection commission and subsequently nominate the candidates for the position of chairperson and professional members of the CEC will be taken from the President and granted to the Speaker of the Parliament. The nine-member selection commission will allot only one spot for the President’s representative. Moreover, the Chairperson of the Parliament will also have the authority to reject the nominated candidates or relaunch the selection of the candidates. Also, if parliamentary voting fails to complete all the vacant positions, the President will have a right to nominate other CEC membership candidates from the contestants within 14 days. In case of repeated failure, the competition for the vacant positions will be relaunched within 3 days.  

In the explanatory note of the draft law, the authors deem it necessary to elect the chairperson and professional members of the CEC for a full term to ensure the uninterrupted functioning of the CEC so that new mechanisms to avoid potential deadlocks are no longer needed.  

However, the proposed changes do not solve the problem of the lack of trust – the key challenge the election administration currently faces. In fact, the draft law contradicts the fundamental agreement on the composition rule of election commissions, disregards the ruling party’s commitments, and defies the recommendations of credible local and international organizations.  

The election of the chairperson and professional members of the CEC with a high quorum, based on the consensus between political parties, is one of the key points of the agreement reached on April 19, 2021, mediated by the president of the European Council, Charles Michel. The lack of independence of the election administration, one of the key state institutions, has frequently become the subject of criticism by the Venice Commission and the OSCE-ODIHR. Fulfilling the recommendations of these institutions is, in fact, one of the EU’s 12 conditions to grant the candidate status to Georgia.  

The proposed draft law reinforces the tendency of the concentration of power by the ruling party, in this case, by granting unlimited authority to elect professional members of the CEC. At the same time, it excludes the President’s meaningful participation in selecting CEC members, leaving her with a symbolic role just for formal adherence to the constitution.  

We urge the Parliament of Georgia to reject the draft law.  

 

International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy – ISFED

Transparency International Georgia

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