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Opposition Accuses GD, CEC of Collusion to Rig the Vote

The coalition “Strength in Unity”, a presidential campaign platform of ten smaller opposition parties led by the United National Movement (UNM), accused the Central Election Commission (CEC) of collusion with the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party to rig the upcoming Presidential elections.

Speaking at a news briefing on August 27, Levan Bezhashvili of the UNM claimed that “the election administration is openly cooperating with the [ruling] Georgian Dream’s campaign office and is acting under its instructions.”

As a proof to confirm his words, Bezhashvili unveiled audio recordings allegedly proving direct collusion between the GD headquarters and their regional coordinators with CEC district election commission (DEC) officials to appoint GD activists as the DEC members in administrative positions. UNM called for resignation of the CEC Chairperson, Tamar Zhvania.

The local election watchdogs responded to the allegations. Ketevan Chachava, Executive Director of the Center for Development and Democracy, believes the facts “are alarming and if their authenticity is confirmed, the responsible bodies should react strictly.”

Nino Rizhamadze, lawyer at the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), also noted that “the audio recordings contain signs of violations” and if found authentic, the CEC Chairperson will have to resign.

The ruling party said the opposition’s accusations are “a speculation.” MP Dimitri Tskitishvili stressed all elections held since the Georgian Dream has the ruling majority, were assessed by international organizations positively, and that the opposition tries “to justify their anticipated defeat in the elections.”

Levan Tarkhnishvili, MP from the opposition European Georgia, who himself led the CEC in the past, said this was a long-standing problem, which both local and international observers have highlighted numerous times. “With recordings or without them, this problem is generally recognized”, he pointed out.

Ana Mikeladze, a CEC spokesperson, stressed in response that the unveiled materials will be studied and “if any violation has taken place, the election administration will have the strictest reaction to them”.

“Strength in Unity” platform previously leveled accusations against CEC on August 10 and August 14, accusing the election administration of corruption and nepotism.

There are 73 election districts in Georgia. DECs comprise of 12 members, 5 of which are appointed by CEC for 5 year term, 6 – by the qualified political parties and one for the term of elections by CEC majority vote. CEC has announced the competition to select the temporary members of the DECs on August 1. An attempt to influence the appointment is contrary to the Georgian Election Code, since it would give a party a disproportional influence on DEC with a potential to affect the election process.

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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