|Voter-List Row Casts Pall Over Preparations For Georgian Municipal Elections|
|February 19, 2010|
Wildly inaccurate voter lists were one of the shortcomings of the May 2008 Georgian parliamentary elections singled out for criticism in the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission's final assessment of the ballot.
In an attempt to preclude a repetition of that criticism, Georgia's Central Election Commission has revised the current lists to determine how many people are entitled to vote in the municipal elections to be held no later than May 31. The commission has further invited those political parties that qualify for state funding to check the lists and provided 1.2 million laris ($680,000) to cover the costs of doing so.
The commission announced on February 16 that 3,587,425 people are eligible to vote in the municipal elections. That figure is 130,000 more than the number of names on the voting lists that were revised between the January 2008 presidential election and the parliamentary ballot four months later. But it is almost 100,000 less than the number of names (3,677,795) on the list submitted by the Civil Registry to the commission on January 1, 2010.
Up to 98,000 names have been removed from that list, including those of 23,000 Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia's Gali district; 44,000 people who have died; and 31,000 Georgians currently living abroad and formally registered with a Georgian Consulate, who are not eligible to vote in municipal (as opposed to national) elections.
Still unclear is the position of 6,852 persons who are not registered as living at any address. According to Zurab Kharatishvili, whose approval by parliament last month as election commission chairman was harshly criticized by opposition parties, the names of 6,852 of over 7,000 people who at the time of the May 2008 were registered as resident either in apartment blocks that did not exist, or in groups of 12-18 in a single apartment, have been removed from the list. Those irregularities were documented in the OSCE/ODIHR final report.
Kharatishvili admitted on February 15 that the commission has no way of determining how many persons on the lists are currently outside Georgia, but not registered with any Georgian Consulate abroad. He also conceded that there are still some inaccuracies in the revised lists, but claimed they do not exceed 1 percent of the total, Caucasus Press reported.
Seven opposition parties(Industry Will Save Georgia; the New Rightists; the Republican Party; the Conservative Party; We Ourselves; Georgia's Way; and Georgian Group) have concluded formal agreements with the commission to participate in checking the updated lists. They must inform the commission in writing of any inaccuracies by March 31.
The Labor Party and the National Forum declined the opportunity to participate in the verification process, which National Forum leader Irakli Mlashvili told journalists on February 8 is no more than "a propaganda ploy" to enable President Mikheil Saakashvili "to legalize the falsification of the vote with the opposition's approval," Caucasus Press reported. Mlashvili appealed to other opposition parties not to take part in checking the lists. Both the Labor Party and the National Forum have already announced they will not field candidates in the municipal elections.
At separate press conferences on February 15, Zurab Tkemaladze of the Industrialists and Tina Khidasheili of the Republican Party highlighted inaccuracies in the revised lists and called for those errors to be rectified, Caucasus Press reported. Two days later, Tkemaladze publicly challenged Civil Registry head Giorgi Vashadze to explain why the revised, updated, and supposedly accurate voter lists for Tbilisi's Varketili district still include 19 nonexistent apartment blocks housing some 70,000 voters.
Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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