GYLA Criticizes Georgian Dream’s Initiative to Change CEC Staffing Rules

The non-governmental organization Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) has responded to a legislative initiative introduced by MPs from the ruling party Georgian Dream on May 8. The initiative proposes that the chairman and seven members of Georgia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) be elected by Parliament instead of the President, on the nomination of the Speaker of Parliament. The number of votes needed to pass the initiative would be reduced to a simple majority from the current requirement of two-thirds. According to the organization’s assessment, with the changes, the ruling party “continues to adapt the legislation to party interests and reduces the independence of the CEC”.

The organization notes that the current procedure for appointing CEC members is in line with the Charles Michel Agreement and requires an agreement between the parliamentary majority and opposition on the selection of the CEC chairman and members. However, if the proposed changes are adopted, the organization argues that “the need for negotiations between the parties to reach a consensus will be eliminated and the majority will be empowered to appoint the CEC alone”.

GYLA highlights the second point of the 12 priorities set by the European Commission for Georgia to become a candidate country for EU membership, which emphasizes the need to enhance the independence of state institutions, including the CEC. “With the changes that have been initiated, the disappearance of the need for consensus ensures the subordination of the electoral administration to the political government of the parliamentary majority, which will weaken the institutions instead of strengthening them.”

Moreover, GYLA argues that the parliamentary majority’s proposal to remove the President from the process of appointing CEC members is a continuation of their efforts to tailor the legislation to their party’s interests. The organization cites the Georgian Constitution, which explicitly grants the President the authority to nominate the CEC chairman and members. GYLA emphasizes that the legislative initiative “disregards the existing role of the President” in this process. “The significant reduction of the president’s role in staffing the CEC, as provided for by the existing legislation, raises additional legitimate questions from the point of view of its compatibility with the Constitution”.

“We believe that by ignoring the [existing] rules for staffing the CEC, “Georgian Dream” refuses to strengthen democratic institutions, thereby contradicting the interests of the Georgian people, the European integration process, and the main principles and values on which the existing relations between Georgia and its strategic partners are based,” they declared. in the organization.

Accordingly, the “Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association” calls upon the Parliament of Georgia to:

  • Not to adopt the draft law, which only serves the narrow party interests of “Georgian Dream”;
  • Take into account the recommendations of our strategic partners to take effective and real steps to ensure the independence of the election administration.

The President’s Administration responded to the legislative initiative by stating that “In selecting candidates, the President is guided by their degree of independence and impartiality. The President does not question their qualifications, but she fundamentally believes that single-party appointments to such positions are contrary to statehood and the European future. Therefore, the President will also veto this bill”.

The statement points out that, for the third time, the ruling majority is changing laws because the president did not present the candidates they wanted for specific positions, including ambassadors, members of the board of the National Bank, chairman, and members of the CEC. The Administration notes that in all three cases, the president’s principled position derives from state, not personal, interests.

This news was updated on May 10 to include the response from the President’s Administration.

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


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