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Saakashvili’s list15.01.2010 | 15:10
A new political scandal has sparked in Georgia: President Mikheil Saakashvili presented his list of CEC chair candidates. The opposition involved in nomination of the CEC head believes the president left them no choice thinking the triad is made of the president's confidants.
Though mayoral election scheduled for this spring in Georgia is not presidential or parliamentary voting, the opposition set certain hopes on this event.
The first step to the coming mayoral election was appointment of the Central Election Commission chairman. The New Year's holidays over, the opposition was ready to make this important step. But on January 11 President Mikheil Saakashvili suggested delaying presentation of candidates to the position of CEC chair at a meeting with NGO representatives. "Two weeks won't change anything", - he stated. - Everyone must be able to have a rest after the New Year's holidays and take a decision in peace".
Mikheil Nikolayevich's thoughtful initiative aroused resentment in the ranks of opposition. Levan Vepkhadze, a parliament deputy, stated that the postponement of CEC chairman nomination means that Saakashvili "has no respect" to the supreme legislative body.
The next day the president surprised everyone by naming three candidates for the post. Out of an extended list Saakashvili picked up Levan Tarkhnishvili, current chairman of the Central Election Commission, Otar Sichinava, a member of the Constitutional Court, and Zurab Kharatishvili, a representative of the Public TV board of guardians, ex CEC employee.
As it turned out the Georgian opposition has personal scores with each of the three candidates from the president. According to the Labor party, Levan Tarkhnishvili acquired notoriety as a distinguished falsifier of elections. Zurab Kharatishvili is a member of the Public TV board of guardians recommended by Soros foundation (an anti-Orthodox organization). Otar Sichinava is an obedient judge of Mikheil Saakashvili's pocket Constitutional Court".
CEC members of the opposition parties that suggested the idea of primaries immediately stated they would not take part in nomination of a new CEC chairperson since the CEC head, they believe, must be a compromise figure between the authorities and the opposition.
"Instead of that the government has presented such candidates as the current chairman who over the past two years has repeatedly provoked a political crisis in the country, Zurab Kharatishvili chairing an authorities-close satellite organization, and Otar Sichinava, a member of the Constitutional Court," - the official statement goes.
Moreover, the opposition believes none of the president-proposed candidates have any experience of organizing fair elections. Neither is their reputation flawless. Eventually the opposition accused Saakashvili of a serious attempt of falsifying local elections.
Curiously enough vice speaker of Georgian parliament Paata Davitaya took the side of the opposition stating that the president had neglected public opinion adding current CEC chairman Levan Tarkhnishvili to the list of three candidates instead of an NGO-recommended person. Davitaya called this "political blackmail" since the opposition will have no chance to elect its candidate and the list will be submitted to the parliament for ratification leaving Tarkhnishvili good chances to retain the post of CEC chair.
Finally, as Davitaya foretold, at an election commission session its opposition members failed to reach agreement. Only three of the four opposition members took part in the voting being unanimously against the president's triad of candidates.
When the voting was over Gocha Jojua, a representative of Christian Democrats in the CEC remarked Saakashvili had nominated candidates in violation of the law - i.e. with delay. According to him it was made to bring the situation to a deadlock and leave the opposition no choice.
GeorgiaTimes correspondent asked Ramaz Sakvarelidze, a Georgian politologist how legal Mikheil Saakashvili's actions were and what he thought of the situation around the CEC chair nomination.
How legal are Saakashvili's actions?
Formally there is only one violation - one-day deferral of candidate presentation. The related law provides for the rest. The group of politicians close to the president made a more advantageous step at the time of law making.
Can the political component be valid in formation of an election commission?
It all depends on the country. As far as I know in France the police force is in charge of that. In Georgia, where almost all state structures are politicized it's practically impossible to find a neutral executor of civil duty inside the CEC. The principle of balance should be applied, but the opposition's error is allowing Saakashvili present this very list of CEC chair candidates.
To what extent can the CEC's biased nature affect the election results and conclusions of the international monitors?