|Observers Comment on Ruling Party List Submission Controversy|
|April 23, 2008|
April 23, 2008
The ruling National Movement party representatives brought the party-list to the CEC a few minutes before the deadline expired, but the opposition has claimed that the National Movement, caught by surprise by Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze’s last-minute decision to withdraw as a candidate, submitted either only “empty papers” or secretly replaced the list overnight on April 22. Allegations intensified after the CEC administration agreed to show the list to election observers and opposition members of CEC only after midnight.
Giorgi Chkheidze, head of the watchdog group Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), who was present in CEC as an observer at the time when controversy was triggered, said he would not speculate whether the list was replaced or submitted with violation of deadline. He, however, said the fact in itself that CEC dragged out the process and allowed its opposition members and observers to see the list only hours after the request triggered “justified questions.”
“At first the CEC told us that the list was in one of the rooms, but as it turned out later the list was in another room,” he told the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Georgian service on April 23. “I think that there are justified questions towards the CEC administration. Yes it is true that eventually when we finally saw the list all the requisites were observed, but a justified question arises: if the list was submitted before 6pm [on April 21 before the deadline expired], why the CEC [opposition] members were not allowed to see the list [immediately after they requested it]? Why this process was dragged out till 4am [April 22]? These circumstances create atmosphere of distrust towards the CEC leadership and in generally towards the election administrations.”
Eka Siradze-Delaunay, executive-director of International Society for Free Elections and Democracy (ISFED), who was also present as an observer also told RFE/RL Georgian service that the CEC had “significantly dragged out” the process. She also said that finally when the observers saw the list, the seal on binder in which it was kept was “damaged.”
The ruling party and CEC leadership have strongly denied any wrongdoing.
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