A selection commission designated by the Georgian President has submitted two candidates for the vacant post of Central Election Commission Chair, and five contestants for two membership seats.
Two incumbent CEC employees, Legal Department Head Giorgi Santuriani and HR and Workforce Security Department Head Giorgi Kalandarishvili, were selected as the chairpersonship candidates. Santuriani has worked at the CEC since 2018, having worked at the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association’s Kutaisi office previously for seven years. Meanwhile, Kalandarishvili has held several posts at the CEC since 2008.
The Chair’s seat became vacant after the previous holder, since 2013, Tamar Zhvania resigned on July 1, arguing the move would allow the political parties to elect a new Chair under the recently amended election code, as part of a wider political compromise.
As for the CEC membership candidates, Ana Mikeladze, Tamara Sartania, Lela Taliuri, Maia Zaridze and Gia Tsatsashvili were picked. The two seats became available after the new election legislation increased the amount of “professional” members of the CEC from six to eight, a number that includes the Chair, Deputy Chair and the Secretary as well.
Now President Salome Zurabishvili has three days to nominate two candidates per post to the Georgian Parliament. 2/3 of votes are necessary for appointing a candidate. If unsuccessful, another vote is held in a week with the same threshold. The third attempt, if necessary, requires a 3/5 majority, while subsequent attempts require a simple majority.
If elected by a majority of less than 2/3, the CEC Chair or member holds their post only temporarily, for six months.
The Georgian President announced the competition on July 1, with a total of 11 candidates for chairpersonship and 17 for membership applying.
Assessments by CSOs
Four civil society organizations – Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) and Transparency International Georgia (TI) that were in the selection commission did not support any candidate for CEC chairpersonship.
Nikoloz Svimonishvili of GYLA said that there were “a lot of reasons” why the selected candidates would not enjoy “high public trust.” “Either the [selection] commission used a very low standard in decision making, or it was a pre-agreed decision,” he noted.
Giorgi Kldiashvili of IDFI also expressed doubts that the rest of the selection commission had nominated candidates that were preliminarily agreed upon.
Georgian Dream MP Shalva Papuashvili, who worked on the recently adopted election reforms, accused the CSOs of attempting to foil the CEC Chair selection competition by refusing to vote for a candidate.
He claimed that the CSOs had also acted on pre-agreed terms, pointing to the nomination of Tamara Sartania, Chair of ISFED’s Board, as a CEC member.
Noteworthy that ISFED itself abstained from voting for Sartania, who received unanimous support from the rest of the election commission, CSO representatives and other members included.
The CEC chair candidates are set to fail in garnering unanimous opposition support, as Akaki Minashvili of the United National Movement, the largest opposition group, has said his party is not going to support either of the two.
This article was updated.