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Georgian Authorities Postpone By-Elections

Our Georgia -- Free Democrats party leader Irakli Alasania is still undecided on its participation.
Our Georgia -- Free Democrats party leader Irakli Alasania is still undecided on its participation.
During talks on August 3, the United National Movement, which controls most of the 150 seats in the Georgian parliament, and the parliament minority agreed to postpone until after the adoption of a new election law the by-elections in three single-mandate constituencies scheduled for September 27.

Levan Vephkhvadze, leader of the seven-member Christian Democrats parliament faction, had announced at a press conference on August 1 that his party had asked the Central Election Commission to reschedule the by-elections so they take place concurrently with the local elections to be held on May 30, 2010. Vephkhvadze said his party would boycott the ballot if it was not postponed.

But Central Election Commission Chairman Levan Tarkhnishvili responded on August 1 that a postponement was impossible as the date for holding by-elections is set by law. It is not clear how that legal stipulation can be circumvented.

Several other opposition parties, including the Labor Party; the For A United Georgia movement headed by former Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili; former parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze's Democratic Movement -- United Georgia; the National Forum (co-chaired by Kakha Shartava and Irakli Melashvili); and the Republican Party had announced earlier they would boycott the by-elections.

Labor Party Secretary Giorgi Gugava argued on August 3, before the decision to postpone the ballot was announced, that "free elections can be held only after the resignation of [Georgian President Mikheil] Saakashvili and the dismantling of his regime."

Former Georgian Ambassador to the UN Irakli Alasania's Our Georgia -- Free Democrats and Tavisupleba (Liberty), which is headed by Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, the eldest son of former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, were undecided whether to participate in the ballot.

Only former Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli's movement For a Just Georgia made a firm commitment to nominate candidates in all three constituencies. Noghaideli pledged on July 31 that his party would not allow the Georgian authorities to rig the outcome of the elections.

But the United National Movement had not nominated candidates as of the morning of August 1; the deadline for doing so was 6 p.m. local time that evening. That delay raises the question: was the ruling party planning not to contest the ballot, and thus hand the opposition three additional mandates?

Meanwhile, six opposition politicians who were elected to parliament in the May 2008 ballot but refused their mandates to protest the perceived falsification of the outcome of that election have rejected President Saakashvili's offer to amend the election law to enable them to take up their mandates.

The six include Shartava; Levan Gachechiladze, who ran unsuccessfully against Saakashvili in the January 2008 early presidential ballot; and New Rightists leader David Gamkrelidze. In a joint statement, they said their refusal of Saakashvili's offer was intended to put an end to speculation that some of them were prepared to cut a deal with the authorities.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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