President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili has presented to the Parliament two candidates for the role of the Central Election Commission Chair, as well as further four nominees for the CEC membership.
Kristine Kajaia, Levan Isakadze, Maia Zaridze and Gia Tsatsashvili — the latter two serving as incumbents — were nominated for the two vacant CEC member posts.
But more importantly, Giorgi Kalandarishvili, incumbent CEC chair and Tengiz Tevzadze, former head of the local non-profit were shortlisted for the post of the chairperson.
Tevzadze, 33, had worked in various positions in the central and local governance between 2012 and 2018 and most recently served as an executive director of the Civil Platform 2020, a non-profit.
Meanwhile, Kalandarishvili, a long-time CEC employee, was elected as chair in August 2021, ahead of the October municipal polls, for a six month term. He failed to garner the opposition’s support, needed for a supermajority that would secure him a full term five-year appointment.
The requirement for the supermajority was introduced to the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure in line with EU-mediated April 19 agreement between the ruling Georgian Dream party and opposition parties, while the rule of six-month appointment with a simple majority was adopted as part of an anti-deadlock mechanism.
With the December amendments, that defied April 19 deal, if the 150-member Parliament fails to elect the CEC chair or members with the 2/3 supermajority, a simple majority of 76 votes soon after the first voting could appoint a char for a six month term.
While both nominees – Kalandarishvili and Tevzadze — have painted themselves as neutral candidates, the opposition have expressed their misgivings about Kalandarishvili’s independence.
Part of the parliamentary opposition, Lelo and Strategy Aghmashenebeli, have said they would support Tevzadze in the upcoming vote.
The civil society organizations have also raised concerns over the selection of the candidates and declined the President’s invite to participate in the selection process as part of her commission.
In an interview with Georgian media, head of International Society for Fair Elections And Democracy Nino Dolidze and chair of Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association Nika Simonishvili argued that the structure and process in the commission favors candidates supported by the authorities and does not allow representatives of the civil society of have any influence on the final outcome.
The Georgian President announced the competition on December 28, with a total of 4 candidates for chairpersonship and 7 for membership applying. The commission greenlighted on January 15 the four membership nominees and three candidates for chairmanship – Tevzadze, Kalandarishvili, along with Tamaz Poladashvili. The latter was dropped by the President.