The Central Election Commission (CEC) has recently come under fire over recent structural changes, a process that a local watchdog, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), called “rushed.”
In a May 15 statement, ISFED cited two procedural amendments as well as reforms to newly established departments adopted by the CEC on March 5 and May 14. The report said that the initial changes defined eleven departments, only to be reduced to eight later. The list of managers, CEC members, and administration employees, as well as their salaries and budget estimates, were also amended twice, ISFED noted.
The watchdog highlighted that the process “lacks legitimacy,” due to the current absence of CEC members appointed through the opposition quota, as the Commission is currently comprised only of “professional” and Georgian Dream-appointed members.
Also, ISFED said, the changes are “inexpedient” as they come ahead of the major amendments to the election system and the election administration, set to be endorsed by the Parliament as per the April 19 Agreement. “Any structural changes should be carried out after a new election administration is formed,” the watchdog stressed.
Droa! Movement, led by opposition politician Elene Khoshtaria, also slammed the changes, alleging that the GD attempts to claim influence and strengthen its “clan” in the Commission before reforms foreseen by the EU-brokered deal.
The order adopted on May 14 substantially increased the powers of a “clan” under Giorgi Javakhishvili, CEC Secretary and the “actual ruler,” Droa says, adding that his “affiliate” Eka Tsabashvili was also appointed as a Head of Election Process Management Department, gaining control over voters’ lists, registration of parties, blocs, and candidates, as well as management of election commissions.
The Central Election Commission on May 17 denied the allegations as “disinformation and unsubstantiated accusations,” aimed at “forming incorrect perceptions and misleading the public.” The CEC said it aims to “raise the efficiency and productivity of the institution and properly address systemic organizational challenges” with the structural changes.
Responding to ISFED’s criticism on reorganizing its departments first in March and then in May, the CEC said the changes concerned its different units on each occasion. It noted that the reorganization is a gradual process, in response to new challenges, needs, and other circumstances that may arise.