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Venice Commission Critical in Follow-Up Opinion on Amendments to Electoral Code

On June 25, the Venice Commission published its follow-up opinion on the draft amendments to the Electoral Code and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament, stressing its concern that none of the recommendations had been taken into account by the Georgian authorities and that the amendments to the Electoral Code were made less than a year before the elections, which undermines public confidence.

The Venice Commission and ODIHR have expressed concerns about the lack of broad consensus and public consultation around the amendments. Despite these concerns, the amendments were adopted as they stood, overriding the President’s veto and failing to address the issues raised by various stakeholders. Therefore, the Commission cannot conclude that the amendments were adopted through a broadly consensual and inclusive process.

The Venice Commission maintains that its initial assessment remains valid, as the draft amendments were adopted without changes. It reiterates its recommendations regarding the Central Election Commission (CEC), stressing the need for independent, impartial election commissions to ensure the proper conduct of elections and to dispel suspicions of irregularities.

The Commission emphasizes the need for a consensus-based process for appointing non-partisan CEC members and the Chairperson. It criticizes the current anti-deadlock mechanism, which allows for a simple majority vote, as it risks allowing the ruling party to dominate the composition of the CEC, undermining its independence and public trust.

While acknowledging the failure of the June 2021 arrangements, the Commission stresses that it remains the responsibility of the Georgian authorities to find an appropriate solution, provided that it ensures consensus among political actors. The Commission clarifies that while ensuring free and fair elections is a binding obligation, its recommendations are guidelines that respect Georgia’s sovereignty in finding appropriate solutions.

The Venice Commission’s initial Opinion indicated that further amendments to Georgia’s electoral legislation are necessary, as many recommendations remain unaddressed. These include issues related to constituency delimitation, restrictive candidate requirements, election commission formation, misuse of official positions in campaigns, high donation limits, campaign finance regulation, media campaign regulations, electoral dispute resolution, recounts, annulments, and voter intimidation prevention.

The Venice Commission emphasizes that it is concerning that these recommendations have not been addressed, especially with the parliamentary elections approaching in October 2024, meaning the elections will again occur under a legal framework with several shortcomings.

The Venice Commission also emphasizes that electoral law stability is crucial for legal certainty and preventing political manipulation. Frequent amendments to Georgia’s electoral legislation risk undermining electoral process integrity, causing confusion among voters, parties, candidates, and electoral authorities, potentially leading to mistakes and distrust in elected bodies.

The Commission stresses the need for a comprehensive and systemic reform of Georgia’s electoral law, well before elections and through inclusive consultations. The Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters advises against changing fundamental electoral elements less than a year before elections to avoid manipulation or its appearance.

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


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