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Source: cesko.ge

Opposition Coalition Accuses CEC of Corruption, Nepotism

The Strength is in Unity, UNM-led political platform of ten opposition parties, is accusing the Central Election Commission of nepotistic appointments in the election administration.

The accusations against CEC were first voiced on August 10. Giorgi Vashadze of the New Georgia party, who serves as the coalition’s presidential campaign manager, said 58 out of 73 CEC temporary appointments to district election commissions across the country were either relatives or close affiliates of security service officers, CEC officials or ruling party members.

“With its initial decisions, the CEC has already started establishing the mechanism of total electoral fraud; it has practically transferred the right to form the election administrations to security service representatives and Georgian Dream campaign offices,” Vashadze noted.

CEC Chair Tamar Zhvania responded to the accusations on August 13, telling the IPN news agency the all CEC appointments were merit-based. “Some of the people mentioned by the opposition have been working in the election administration since 2006 and 2008 … I rule out any conflict of interests, since there are legal criteria that they completely met,” she said.

There is a three-tiered structure of election administration – some 3600 precinct election commissions (PEC); 73 district election commissions (DEC) and the Central Election Commission. Commissions at each level consist of 12 members. Six members are appointed by political parties, while the remaining are appointed by the parliament or upper level commissions. Selection and appointment of CEC chair has a separate procedure.

Zhvania’s response appeared to be unconvincing for the opposition coalition. At a press briefing on August 14, Vashadze said the CEC “continues establishing the mechanism of total fraud,” and claimed it is preparing grounds for fraudulent appointments at precinct levels.

Vashadze then specified that upon CEC’s recent decision, unlike last year’s municipal elections, DEC members are no longer entitled to interview candidates for vacant precinct administration seats. “This is yet another indication that Tamar Zhvania has turned the Central Election Commission into a campaign office of the ruling party,” he said.

UNM’s Levan Khabeishvili added to the allegations, accusing the CEC leadership of misusing the budgetary resources, including through funding unreasonable business trips abroad.

The CEC responded to the opposition yesterday. In an official statement, the CEC said the “discreditation” campaign “is part of a deliberate plan to damage the public trust towards the election administration and the CEC’s high reputation, which has been reflected in the reports of international organizations, as well as in recent public opinion polls.”

It then reiterated that appointments at all three levels were merit-based and in full observance of legal requirements. The CEC also stressed that claims of misusing the budgetary resources was part of a discreditation campaign and said Khabeishvili “wrongfully” associated the CEC’s overall expenditures for its international activities to the CEC Chair only.

“Attempts to carry out deliberate campaigns against the CEC took place in the last several elections, but it did not affect the voter trust and the assessments of observer organizations; the election administration is guided by and acts in line with professional standards to serve voters and meticulously reflect their votes in the election results,” the CEC concluded.

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