The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), a local watchdog, released a statement, criticizing selection process for four vacant positions on the board of the Central Election Commission (CEC), conducted in November, 2019, by a selection commission designated by the President.
In the statement of April 25, the watchdog identified a number of shortcomings that call into question both “impartiality” of the selection commission, as well the evaluation process of CEC board membership candidates.
On November 5, after four elected positions on CEC’s board had been vacated, the President launched selection procedures to pick nominees for parliamentary deliberations.
The selection process was conducted by a commission designated by the President. On November 25, the President submitted to Parliament a list of eight nominees chosen by the selection commission.
The Parliament confirmed four nominees – Dimitri Javakhadze, Giorgi Dzagania, Giorgi Javakhishvili and Giorgi Chikaberidze – out of eight as members of the CEC board on December 10.
ISFED noted that criteria which the President applied to staff the selection commission was ambiguous, although general requirements of the Election Code of Georgia were not violated.
The watchdog cast doubt on the “political impartiality” and “professionalism” of certain CSOs represented in the selection commission that aroused suspicion about fairness of the selection process of CEC members.
ISFED added that at a selection commission hearing on November 22, 2019, the minutes did not elaborate on the criteria used to evaluate the candidates, while the commission failed to substantiate its decision not to shortlist some candidates while endorsing others.
The final list of endorsed candidates raised questions about neutrality of the selection commission, ISFED said.
ISFED emphasized that commission’s decision was not well-founded, while justification for commission’s recommendations to pick certain candidates remained “unclear.”
Concluding the statement, ISFED called for including only a single representative of President’s Administration into the selection commission, in order to ensure broader representation of other stakeholders, such as of the Public Defender’s Office, election professionals, members of academia with relevant experience, and other, “reputable” members of the society.
It further recommended not to include representatives of partisan organizations into the commission, prioritizing “impartial” and unbiased CSOs.
ISFED called on the selection commission to make a well-founded decision while choosing CEC members not to call into question fairness of the entire process.