Parliament Elects CEC Chair, Members

On April 30, the Georgian parliament elected Giorgi Kalandarishvili as Chair of the Central Election Commission (CEC) with 85 votes in favor and 16 against. Parliament also elected three members of the CEC: Maia Zaridze, Giorgi Sharabidze, and Gia Tsatsashvili. The chair and members of the CEC are elected for five-year terms.

On April 11, the president’s representative suspended his membership in the commission to elect the CEC members. Two CSOs represented in the commission did the same before. Kalandarishvili was the only candidate.

Earlier, in February, the Georgian Parliament voted on controversial amendments to the country’s electoral code, which changed the staffing rules of the CEC. According to the new rules, the Speaker of the Parliament replaced the President as an institution tasked with nominating and announcing a competition for the election of the Chairman and the so-called “professional”, or non-partisan members of the CEC. The position of Deputy Chairman of the CEC, which was reserved for a representative of the opposition, was abolished. Although the President vetoed the amendments, the ruling majority overrode the veto, and the amendments officially went into effect.

These changes were criticized by the opposition and civil society organizations, who fear they increase the hold of the ruling party over the CEC. They also pointed out that these amendments did not meet the nine conditions set by the European Commission and neglected the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission.

In his major campaign speech on April 29 , Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder and currently the Honorary Chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, referred to this matter NGOs and opposition, supported by the foreign actors, “fervently tried to undermine the Central Election Commission” and that the Parliament “rightly did not take into account” the demands of “the agents,” which would have destabilized the country.

Who is who

Giorgi Kalandarishvili, has held the position of CEC Chair on a temporary basis since August 2021, as he did not receive the support of the opposition at that time. Since 2008 he has headed several departments and divisions of the CEC, including the Division for Public and Press Relations (2008-2009), the Division for Legal Service (2009-2012), the Department for Legal Service (2012-2019), the Department for Human Resources (2019-2021), the Council for Gender Equality of the CEC (2021), the Department for Human Resources and Work Safety (2021). From 2019 to 2021, he also served as the quality assurance officer at the CEC. In 2006, he obtained a Master’s degree in Law from the University of Ioane Petritsi.

Gia Tsatsashvili also worked at the CEC as a Senior Specialist in the Department of Management of Electoral Processes, in particular in its Division of Management of Election Commissions from 2016 to the present. In 2019-2020 he was a visiting lecturer of strategic management at the University of Kutaisi. From 2012 to 2016, Tsatsashvili worked in the Ministry of Finance as the Chief Specialist of the service for relations with the Parliament. Over the years, he has worked in several public institutions and non-governmental organizations, mostly in the western Georgian city of Kutaisi.

Giorgi Sharabidze has served as Deputy Chair of the CEC from 2013 to the present. He was a member of the CEC from 1996 to 1998. He also served as a Training Specialist in the Training Department of the CEC in 2009-2010. He holds a Master’s degree in Law, which he obtained from Tbilisi State University in 1996.

Maia Zaridze has been a temporary member of the CEC since 2021. In 2019-2021, Zaridze worked as the Head of the Division of Management of Electoral Commissions of the Department of Management of Electoral Processes. In 2013-2019, she worked as a specialist in the Department of Training Programs of the Center for Development, Reforms and Training of LPU Election Systems. In 2003-2006, she worked as a CEC Training Officer in all elections and in 2006-2012 as a Regional Coordinator of CEC training programs. She has represented CEC at all levels of election commissions in all elections since 2003. Zaridze holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration, which she obtained from Ilia State University in 2014.

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


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