Georgian opposition parties have skeptically reacted to Georgian Dream’s proposed amendments to the Election Code some two months ahead of October parliamentary polls. The draft changes foresee toughened criminal penalties against attempts to intimidate, threaten or coerce voters, as well as breaching vote secrecy, with suggested punishments stretching from fines to imprisonment for up to three years.
MP Salome Samadashvili from the United National Movement party said the move aims at convincing international organizations that the Georgian Dream party is doing something different this time. She stressed that even positive amendments could be abused “under selective justice”.
Noting that similar provisions are already in place, MP Sergi Kapanadze of European Georgia recalled that none of the ruling party members have been brought to justice for those election rule violations.
MP Eka Beselia, an opposition politician, once a member of the GD, claimed that the ruling party rejected calls for similar legislative amendments before. She warned that GD might turn the proposal into a pro forma “declaration”.
MP Levan Koberidze, a majoritarian candidate from the Lelo for Georgia party, slammed the proposal as “one-act farce,” noting that the ruling party tries to lie to itself by misleading others first.
Republican leader Khatuna Samnidze said that political will, rather than introducing amendments, is more important for holding democratic elections, adding that GD lacks the former. Hence, Samnidze argued, “the international community is not convinced that Georgian Dream will hold fair, peaceful and free elections.”
Proposing the said changes on August 26, Georgian Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze said “our goal is to uphold the highest democratic standard[s] while holding 2020 parliamentary polls.” Talakvadze expressed his hopes that the legislative amendments would put an end to opposition’s “speculations.”