Watchdogs: Senaki Local Council Chair Elected in ‘Gross Violation of Law’

Three civil society organizations – the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Transparency International Georgia (TIG), and the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) – stated that the “illegitimate” Senaki Local Council (Sakrebulo) appointed a new chairperson in “gross violation of the law.”

The Senaki Sakrebulo elected Saba Odisharia, a Georgian Dream representative, as its new chairperson on 25 October. Following that decision, the opposition has chosen to boycott the Council. That was preceded by the victory of a Georgian Dream candidate in the elections for 1 seat on the Senaki Sakrebulo on October 1, which gave GD 17 seats on the 33-member council, allowing them to elect the new chairperson independently. Before that, on 18 August, the Senaki District Court ruled that the election of Irakli Kacharava, a member of ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party, as chairperson of the Senaki Sakrebulo in February was illegal.

In particular, the CSOs’ joint statement highlighted that following the 2021 local self-government elections, the Georgian Dream won 16 seats in the 33-member Senaki Sakrebulo, the United National Movement won 13, and For Georgia won 4, thereby ensuring that Senaki was one of the municipalities in which the opposition secured the majority.

However, after one member of the For Georgia party refused their mandate, the opposition, and Georgian Dream were both left with 16 seats each, sparking a stalemate where neither could elect a new chairperson independently. On its part, the Georgian Dream then refused to participate in the consequent sessions where the Sakrebulo recognized the authority of Kacharava, as a result of which, “a crisis was created and the Council was paralyzed.”

The statement also draws attention to the changes made in the electoral code in May, according to which the decision of the Sakrebulo is no longer required to confirm the authority of a substitute member of the Council, which gave the opposition the chance to gather a majority once again. However, at the end of May, a UNM member left the Council, “which the party attributes to outside pressure, and the opposition side was left with 16 mandates.” Human rights defenders stated at the time that as a result, by-elections in Senaki should be held for the entire Municipality, and not for that one seat alone.

According to the CSOs, the Senaki Sakrebulo was unable to convene for *6 months after the initial session was held on 17 December 2021, and the law stipulates that the Council is “unauthorized and until the election of a new City Council, the Senaki Municipality is left without a legal representative body.”

As a result, the CSOs claim that the Government should adopt a resolution on the early termination of the powers of the Senaki Council and introduce direct state governance. They explained that as part of that decision, a trustee, body, or authorized person will be appointed by the government and in accordance with the law, will remain in place until extraordinary elections will elect a new Sakrebulo.

*Article 142 (1c) of the Local Self-government Code of Georgia: the powers of a Sakrebulo shall be terminated prematurely if the Sakrebulo fails to meet for 6 consecutive months.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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