The Venice Commission and ODIHR on June 18 issued a second joint urgent opinion on the revised draft amendments to the Georgian Election Code, noting that some elements of key recommendations from the first opinion still remain to be addressed.
Though welcoming that a two-thirds parliamentary majority vote has been introduced for electing the chairperson and non-partisan members of the Central Election Commission (CEC), the joint opinion expressed concern over “the significant reduction” of the period between different voting rounds from four weeks to one, stressing that the latter may undermine reaching consensus among the ruling and opposition parties.
The joint opinion also reiterated its previous recommendation which envisages requiring higher credentials for non-partisan CEC members and strengthening the selection process, noting that only raising the necessary work experience for the positions from three to five years is insufficient.
Concerning the selection commission, presenting two to three candidates per CEC position to the Georgian President, the Venice Commission and ODIHR recommended that the amendments define a minimum number of selection commission members to specify their appointment mechanism, and outline the commission’s decision-making process.
The joint opinion said it is also unclear why preference is given to parties that receive more state funding in case there are more than nine eligible parties to appoint CEC members. “This is particularly worrying if state funding does not depend only on the number of votes or seats received but in their participation in parliamentary sessions,” the Venice Commission and ODIHR noted.
The joint opinion also reiterated its “long-standing” recommendation for the election legislation to define justified grounds of removal of party-nominated election commission members, “in order to protect the tenure of commission members.”
According to the Venice Commission and ODIHR, a previous key recommendation calling for “ensuring a transparent, genuinely merit-based process for the appointment” of non-partisan District and Precinct Election Commission members has still not been implemented based on the draft amendments.
Regarding election dispute resolution, the joint opinion stressed that the right to submit complaints to election commissions should not be limited to persons authorized to issue complaints, and should not exclude “common citizens from their right to complain.”
Noting that the practice of “frequently amending the electoral legislation risks to undermine the integrity of the electoral process and the state’s ongoing efforts to consolidate democracy,” the Venice Commission and ODIHR reiterated “the call for a more comprehensive and systemic reform of the Georgian electoral law,” preventing frequent future changes and ensuring stability.