Headlines from Television News:
- Governmental working group for free and fare elections, that has been initiated by acting president of Georgia Nino Burjanadze has started functioning. The group will coordinate activity of state structures, their relationship with that of international and local monitoring missions in order to conduct free, transparent presidential elections. Moreover, the working group is targeted to co-work with monitoring missions regarding presidential campaign related issues. Governmental group unites representatives of Foreign and Internal Ministries, as well as members of parliament of Georgia and is to conduct its session twice a week.
- Central Election Commission, CEC came out with an initiative to prolong terms of electorate registration yesterday. The deadline for correcting inaccuracy in electoral lists is determined to be on December 16. The decision was made on the ground of demand that of members of opposition. According to oppositional representatives, population of Georgia has not been informed about expiration of deadline for correcting inaccuracy in electoral lists on 13 December. The CEC officially registered 7 presidential candidates - Mikheil Saakashvili, Davit Gamkrelidze, Shalva Natelashvili, Levan Gachechiladze, Giorgi Maisashvili, Arkadi (Badri) Patarkatsishvili and Irina Sarishvili. Snap presidential elections is scheduled for January 5, 2008 in Georgia.
- Shalva Natelashvili, presidential candidate of “Labor Party” met with representative of National Democratic Institute, NDI today. The negotiations, with reference to pre-election period and conducting that of fare elections were held at the office of Labor Party. According to Natelashvili, NDI representatives hope that January 5 presidential elections will undergo without excesses, counting on holding free, transparent elections that will be held in a democratic mood and the Georgian people itself will be able to determine its future. Shalva Natelashvili emphasized that he didn’t exclude mass protest rallies in case of having rigged elections.
- Levan Gachechiladze, presidential candidate representing political movement “Freedom” of oppositional forces left for Ajara Autonomous Republic Today. Gachechiladze is to meet with natives of Kobuleti and Batumi. Moreover, on December 14 presidential candidate will meet with electorate of Khulo, Keda and Shuakhevi, high mountainous regions of the Autonomous Republic. The visit, within the framework of Gachechiladze’s pre-election campaign will last two days.
- Youth movement “Our Generation” has joined Mikheil Saakashvili’s (presidential candidate of the United National Movement) supporting movement of the youth wing. The youth non governmental organization “Our Generation” has been serving to establish relationship with the youth in the so called conflict zones on the territory of Georgia. Members of “Our Generation” consider their backing Saakashvili’s candidature as contributing to the effort of Georgia’s territorial integrity. Snap presidential elections will be held on January 5, 2008.
“Worthy Start” Initiative To Be Launched In Georgia On December 21
December 13, 2007; Source: Prime-News Business
“Worthy Start” joint initiative of the government of Georgia will be launched on December 21 this year, Lado Gurgenidze, the Prime Minister of Georgia, stated at the press conference with reporters on Thursday. “Companies are highly interested in this initiative. It is needless to say that social solidarity is an integral part of Georgian business,” Lado Gurgenidze stated. According to him, the government is able to start the program as early as on December 21 this year instead of January 01, 2008. “In the frames of the program aid will be rendered to about 30 000 – 40 000 people in 2007. I would like to thank representatives of Georgian business for this opportunity,” the Prime Minister noted. Within the abovementioned initiative vulnerable families in grave financial situation will receive GEL 1000 (about USD 625) per each newly born child. A family will be able to cash the sum at the corresponding banking institution of the country. The budget of the project amounted to GEL 5 million (about USD 3.125 million) as of November 30 and grew threefold after the State allocated additional funds. In accordance to the program, private companies operating in Georgia will allocate fixed sums in the course of the next 5 years. At the same time the government will allocate doubled resources from the State Budget. Aid will be rendered only to families registered in the United Vulnerable Families Database and who were conferred 100 000 or less rating points reflecting socio-economic situation.
Georgia Without Poverty: an election pledge
December 13, 2007; Source: www.messenger.com.ge
“Georgia without poverty!” is ruling party candidate Mikheil Saakashvili’s main campaign slogan, his spokesman Davit Bakradze, State Minister for Conflict Resolution, announced on December 11. Bakradze said that four years ago Saakashvili campaigned under such slogans as “Georgia without [then-president] Shevardnadze!”, “Georgia without [former ruler Adjara] Aslan Abashidze!”, “Georgia without an energy supply problem!”, “Georgia without corruption!” and “Georgia without thieves-in-law!” all of which, he said, the ruling party leader subsequently delivered to the people. “Now Saakashvili promises Georgians that if he wins, on January 5 he will eradicate poverty in the country,” Bakradze added. The government recently began implementing a series of programs aimed at tackling Georgia’s social problems, including pension hikes, increases in teachers’ salaries and a state-funded apprenticeship program. New Rights presidential candidate Davit Gamkrelidze has criticized the initiatives for being unrealistic. “Economist have put the estimated overall cost of these programs at GEL 11 billion [about USD 6.8 billion],” Gamkrelidze claimed, adding that this is over twice Georgia’s entire 2008 draft budget. “Now, the administration does not have much choice: either it will have to print more money to fund its promised social initiative, which will cause massive inflation, or it will deceive society again,” Gamkrelidze explained.
Georgia's Unemployed Silent About Predicament
December 12, 2007; Source: Voice of America
During recent anti-government demonstrations in Georgia, a pro-government member of parliament expressed surprise that protesters demanded electoral reforms rather than action on a bread-and-butter issue such as unemployment. VOA correspondent Peter Fedynsky recently visited Tbilisi, and has this report on Georgia's widespread joblessness and why it is not a political issue.
In a telephone interview with the VOA during recent anti-government protests in Tbilisi, the head of Georgia's Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, Elena Tevdoradze, expressed surprise by what she said were "sudden" opposition demands for electoral reforms. Tevdoradze says the protests would not have surprised her had they involved social issues, such as widespread unemployment. Unemployed men hoping to get work for at least a single day gather near a Tblisi bridge each morning. The American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia estimates the unemployment rate in this city at 29 percent. The government puts Georgia's nationwide jobless rate as high as 17 percent; though critics say it could be higher. Tens of thousands of Georgians have lost jobs in the post Soviet era when inefficient factories were closed, and when reforms cut the size of government bureaucracy. A Russian economic embargo has reduced demand for Georgian goods, especially wine and agricultural products. Internal and external instability has made foreign companies hesitant to invest in Georgia. Sandro Urushadze, the director of Georgia's Social Subsidy Agency, says even if jobs are available, many lack the training required by private companies. "These organizations are looking for new people to employ. However, there is a gap between the ability of people to work there, and the need of organizations to employ qualified personnel." Qualifications are a factor in Georgia's construction industry, which employs a substantial number of workers from Turkey. Unemployed Georgians resent the foreign workers, who are accused of receiving preferential treatment from Turkish companies, which have won numerous building contracts in Tbilisi. Georgian officials, however, say the Turks fill a need for skilled labor. Malkhaz Chutkerashvili lost his job as a TV cameraman two years ago. He says finding a new position has been frustrating, but notes that getting angry at the political situation would only make things worse.
"We've had various elections – democratic and undemocratic – but there has been no movement,” he says. “But I know we need to somehow find a way out. There is no time for pessimism. There is no time to get angry and do something foolish. No, the situation itself will determine what comes next." Many Georgians say joblessness is a personal matter, which they prefer not to discuss publicly. Soso Tsiskarishvili, Chairman of the European Integration Forum in Tbilisi, says the typical Georgian approach to solving the unemployment problem is more Russian than European. "There was an 18th century [Irish]-English thinker, Oliver Goldsmith, who said that to overcome any kind of problem, you must, first of all, talk about it loudly," says Tsiskarishvili. "I would say that's a European approach. The Russians have a different approach: 'Don't wash your dirty linen in public’." Tsiskarishvili says Georgians tend to demonstrate over reasons of fairness and honor, as they did in Soviet times when they felt their language or national identity were threatened. And many who participated in Georgia's recent anti-government demonstrations say their demands involved a fair electoral process. Meanwhile, the unemployed here quietly survive on meager welfare benefits, as low as $10 per month, and an occasional odd job.
Possibilities for gas storage facility in Georgia
December 13, 2007; Source: www.messenger.com.ge
The government hopes that the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) will help finance a natural gas storage facility in Georgia, one of the country’s key energy security priorities. Over the past few years donor organizations have pumped money into researching the project, with the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) allotting USD 1 million in 2005 and the Millennium Challenge Fund putting forward USD 5 million last year. KFAED expressed an interest in financing further research this year, although the government decided the state budget would cover all research costs from now on, according to the newspaper 24 Saati. However, government representatives say they hope KFAED, which has already donated USD 24.5 million for road construction and plans to invest in three hydroelectric power stations on the River Rioni, will also consider financing construction of the gas storage facility. Gas storage facilities have two broad purposes: to meet seasonal demands and ensure against unforeseen supply disruptions. In Georgia, gas storage would allow Tbilisi to buy up gas during summer (when it is often cheaper) and retain it for the higher demand period in winter.
Opposition Prepares for Post-Election Protests – Burjanadze
December 13, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge ; Interpressnews; Black Sea Press
Nino Burjanadze, the acting president, lashed out at the opposition, saying they were assuming that the January 5 election would be rigged and instead of concentrating on the election itself, were more focused on preparing post-election protests. “This is hugely irresponsible, because you [referring to the opposition] should do your best to win the election,” Burjanadze said. “You say that the authorities are hampering your election campaign and you are getting ready for January 6… It's unreal. I am deeply concerned about the opposition’s stance.” Burjanadze said that she was often contacted by opposition leaders complaining about alleged violations and pressure; however, she said, after looking into the allegations, they all turned out to be groundless. The opposition has alleged on-going intimidation of their activists, mainly in the provinces, and the extensive misuse of administrative resources by presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili and his ruling party. Speaking on a Rustavi 2 TV political talk show on December 10, MP Mamuka Katsitadze of the New Rights Party (Davit Gamkrelidze is the party's presidential candidate) insisted that “violations are already taking place." "Intimidation, pressure on opposition activists, unfair allocation of broadcast airtime, the misuse of administrative resources and the bribing of voters – these are all taking place," he said. He did, however, say that such alleged violations didn't necessarily mean the election would be rigged. "If we, along with international observers, manage to curb this illegality ahead of the polls, of course we will say that they were fair. We are not fixated on the idea that the elections will definitely be rigged,” he said. Speaking on the same show, Tina Khidasheli of the Republican Party (a member of the nine-party opposition coalition backing Levan Gachechiladze for the presidency) accused the government of planting what she called nihilism. “The ruling party accuses the opposition of preparing for January 6 instead of polling day, which is of course not true,” she said. “The authorities will not dare rig the ballot. And this is what we are telling voters at every meeting. We will protect your votes and it will not be possible to rig the elections – this is what we are telling them. We will concede victory to anyone who wins in a free and fair election.”
CEC at Centre of Campaign Battle
December 13, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge ; www.messenger.com.ge
The political controversy surronding the Central Election Commission (CEC) this week has left the opposition reeling, with presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili apparently gaining the upper hand. The political fallout followed two separate interventions by opposition-nominated CEC members. On December 11 the opposition members of the CEC blocked the proposed opening of polling stations in Iraq and Kosovo, which would have allowed over 2,000 Georgian soldiers serving there to vote in the January 5 early presidential polls. Earlier on the same day, in a separate incident, some opposition CEC members questioned the current voter lists. The decision to deny soldiers serving abroad the opportunity to vote drew most attention on December 12, with the ruling party gaining maximum advantage at the opposition's expense. The army enjoys a 86% approval rating, according to public opinion research conducted in September 2007, putting it second only to the Georgian Orthodox Church in people's estimations. Mikheil Saakashvili was quick to capitalize on that popularity. “I want to express my concern about the CEC decision, which prevents our best 2,000 soldiers from participating in the presidential election,” he said on December 12. “I think that there are values, which stand above everything else and about which we should have a shared position.” The Ministry of Defense on the same day also had its say. It organized a video conference call with a group of Georgian servicemen in Iraq, extracts of which were aired on Georgian TV. “We are all astonished with what has happened,” a soldier speaking from Iraq said. “We can not understand why we can't vote.” The 13-member CEC fell two votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to open polling stations in Iraq and Kosovo. Although the ruling party holds a majority of seats – seven – in the CEC, the decision needed nine votes for approval. Those who voted against cited a Georgian constitutional provision, which stipulates that elections should not be held if there is “a state of emergency or martial law.” Zura Marakvelidze, an opposition Republican Party-nominated CEC member, subsequently defended his decision. “It is absolutely incorrect to suggest that the opposition has deprived Georgian soldiers abroad of their right to vote. It's the Georgian constitution that has determined the matter,” he said. However, Eka Tkeshelashvili, the justice minister, on December 12 rejected that rationale, saying the relevant constitutional provision refers only to Georgia itself and not to foreign countries. Meanwhile, Mikheil Saakashvili’s re-election campaign office said that the CEC decision was aimed at depriving Saakashvili of a guaranteed 2,000 votes. “Yesterday’s decision was made purely to deprive presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili of 2,000 votes, which he would have certainly received, because Mikheil Saakashvili has created the new Georgian army,” Davit Bakradze, the state minister for conflict resolution issues and a Saakashvili campaign spokesman, said on December 12. The controversy surronding the CEC has also reignited the debate on the actual composition of the CEC. Six opposition parties – New Rights, Freedom, Republican, Industrialists, Conservatives, Labor – recently won the right to nominate political appointees to the CEC following a ruling party climb-down. The government had been insisting that the CEC remain composed of only non-partisan, certified election officials. Despite fears of politicizing the organization, the government backed down as part of a series of compromises made to the opposition following the November protests and unrest. The opposition had alleged that the previous CEC was only nominally non-partisan and in reality was totally controlled by the ruling party. “[The] decision [on polling stations for soldiers abroad] has shown that we were right to have argued against a party-based CEC,” Bakradze said. Soldiers' voting rights is the first major point of contention within the newly constituted CEC. More, however, can be expected as the election looms. While some CEC decisions require a two-thirds majority, others, the endorsement of election results being an important case in point, require just a simple majority.
‘No Additional Immunity for Candidate Patarkatsishvili’
December 13, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge; Prime News; Black Sea Press
The authorities have no plans to grant additional immunity for presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili, officials said on December 13. Business tycoon Patarkatsishvili’s election campaign office had requested the authorities to provide additional, written guarantees for his security so that he could return to Georgia to launch his campaign. Although the Georgian General Prosecutor’s Office suspects Patarkatsishvili of conspiring to overthrow the government, he has immunity as a presidential candidate. The Central Election Commission (CEC) can, however, remove this immunity if prosecutors provide justified reasons for doing so. The CEC must consider such a request and issue a final decision within three days. “All candidates enjoy equal rights and can, if they want, arrive and participate in the elections,” Davit Bakradze, the state minister for conflict resolution issues and a Saakashvili campaign spokesman, said on December 13. “No state official can promise more or less than envisaged by the law.” Eka Tkeshelashvili, the justice minister, also said on December 13 that there was no legal ground for granting Patarkatsishvili additional guarantees. MP Valery Gelbakhiani, a Patarkatsishvili campaign office spokesman, said that he wanted foreign diplomats accredited in Georgia to mediate in the dispute. “It seems that the authorities simply do not want Patarkatsishvili to run his campaign in Georgia,” Gelbakhiani said. Officials, however, dismissed the allegation and called on the Patarkatsishvili campaign office to desist from “speculating on this issue.” Patarkatsishvili currently spends most of his time between London and Israel. His campaign office said a few days ago that he would return to Tbilisi on December 16.
Natelashvili Pledges Free Gas, Electricity for Three Years
December 13, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge ; Black Sea Press
Labor Party leader and presidential candidate Shalva Natelashvili has promised free gas and electricity for consumers in the event of winning in the January 5 early polls. Natelashvili said businesses would pay consumers' gas and electricity bills for the next three years and in exchange they would receive tax breaks. “This will be done by those billionaire businessmen, who are now bribing Mikheil Saakashvili … But their bribe will be used instead to cover people’s gas and electricity bills,” Natelashvili said on December 12. Natelashvili's pledge is in keeping with an increasing emphasis on social issues by many presidential candidates. On December 11, Natelashvili pledged to compensate those who had financially lost out with the collapse of the Soviet-era banking system. Presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili has also been playing the social card. He urged the government on December 11 to cover people's gas and electricity payment arrears accumulated since 1999. The government immediately responded, saying it already had elaborated special memoranda with KazTransGaz-Tbilisi, a gas distributor company covering Tbilisi and Telasi, and another electricity distributor company in the capital city. The initiative will mainly apply to internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in collective centers. Meanwhile, business tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili’s campaign staff announced on December 11 that Patarkatsishvili would spend USD 1 billion of his own money on social assistance programs if elected.
Sokhumi Protests against Election Campaign in Gali
December 13, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge; Black Sea Press
Posters of presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili were torn down in the Gali district of breakaway Abkhazia by the local Abkhaz administration, an Abkhaz official said on December 13. The Georgian media sources reported on December 12 that election posters of Saakashvili appeared some of the villages of the predominantly Georgian-populated Gali district, which triggered the local Abkhaz administration’s angry reaction. Abkhaz leader’s envoy to Gali, Ruslan Kishmaria, said comments posted on the Abkhaz leader’s website, that the Georgian side is stirring destabilization by trying to involve the Gali district in its election campaign. “The Georgian authorities want to provoke conflict between the citizens of Abkhazia living in Gali and the Abkhaz central authorities,” he said. Meanwhile, Nino Burjanadze, the Georgian acting president, told government members on December 13: “The Gali district is a part of Georgia and I really do not advise anyone to carry out punitive measures in this region, because it will trigger an adequate reaction from the international community and our response to illegal actions there will be very loud.”
Ban Ki-Moon Urges Geo, Abkhaz Sides for Restraint
December 13, 2007; Source: Interpressnews
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for calm and restraint in the face of the current tensions between the two sides to the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, the UN official website reports. Mr. Ban has taken note of the allegations made by both sides about impending threats and the build-up of armed forces in both the zone of conflict and the Kodori valley, according to statement issued by his spokesperson. The UN Observer Mission in Georgia, (UNOMIG), which has been conducting daily verifications of these claims, has not been able to corroborate many so far, he noted. The Secretary-General voiced his support for a Security Council resolution from 15 October, which ‘strongly urges all parties to consider and address seriously each other’s legitimate security concerns, to refrain from any acts of violence and provocation, including political action or rhetoric, and to comply fully with previous agreements regarding ceasefire and non-use of violence.’
UNOMIG Fails to Confirm Military Build-Up in Abkhazia
December 13, 2007; Source: www.civil.ge
UN observers have been unable to confirm recent allegations of a military build-up in Abkhazia, the UN Secretary General’s spokesperson said in a statement on December 12. The Georgian authorities have been publicly claiming that Russia was deploying additional military hardware and troops in Abkhazia. Last week, Tbilisi alleged that Russia had sent extra troops to the breakaway region under the pretext of rotating its peacekeepers. Meanwhile, the Abkhaz side has also expressed concern about an alleged Georgian military build-up in the Georgian-controlled upper Kodori Gorge. The statement by the UN Secretary General’s spokesperson says that Ban Ki-moon has taken note of these allegations. However, “the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), which has been conducting daily verifications of these claims, has not been able to corroborate many so far,” the statement reads. Ban also gave his backing to an October 15 Security Council resolution, which “strongly urges all parties to consider and address seriously each other’s legitimate security concerns, to refrain from any acts of violence and provocation, including political action or rhetoric, and to comply fully with previous agreements regarding ceasefire and non-use of violence.”
NATO chief calls Russia's suspension of European arms control treaty 'regrettable'
December 13, 2007; Source: The Associated Press via the International Herald Tribune
TOKYO: Russia's suspension of its participation in a key European arms control treaty is "regrettable," NATO's secretary general said Thursday while on a visit to Tokyo. "I think it's regrettable that Russia has decided to suspend its obligations under what is a very important treaty ... that is one of the major cornerstones of European security," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop told The Associated Press. His comments came one day after Russia said it had stopped sharing information required by the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and would no longer be receiving foreign arms inspectors. The late Cold War-era treaty limits the number of conventional weapons that could be deployed west of the Ural Mountains — the edge of European Russia. "When one of the major partners steps out of the treaty, it is highly regrettable," de Hoop said. Russia's move will not directly affect NATO operations in Kosovo and elsewhere, he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the suspension because NATO countries have not ratified a revised version of the treaty, which originally was signed in 1990. The United States and other NATO members have said that Moscow must first fulfill obligations to withdraw forces from Georgia and from Moldova's separatist region of Trans-Dniester. The United States strongly objected to Russia's move, which State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said came despite "intensive dialogue" with Moscow to address Russian concerns.
GEORGIA: IMEDI TV RETURNS, BUT WILL PATARKATSISHVILI?
December 12, 2007; Source: www.eurasianet.org; www.civil.ge
Imedi Television returned to Georgian airwaves on December 12, amid growing speculation over whether or not former Imedi co-owner Badri Patarkatsishvili will return to Tbilisi to launch his own presidential campaign. Imedi's hour-long evening news program, Kronika, was the first broadcast to air since the station's takeover on November 7. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav110907a.shtml Introduced by emotional scenes of Imedi staff reentering the station on December 7, the newscast featured a review of events in the weeks after the closure of the television and radio company. Station staff have said that damaged station equipment means that their broadcast schedule will be limited to three half-hour news slots per day, in addition to Kronika and a political talk show. Representatives of the channel also claimed that technical issues would limit Imedi's reach to households in and around the capital Tbilisi. The station's closure has emerged as a focal point of the presidential campaign for Levan Gachechiladze, who is backed by a nine-party opposition coalition known as the United National Opposition Council. At a December 10 campaign stop in the Tbilisi suburb of Varketili, coalition leader Tina Khidasheli jubilantly held up an Imedi journalist's microphone to onlookers and told them the station's reopening was "your victory." Whether or not Imedi's broadcasting return has a significant impact on the presidential campaign cannot be predicted. Its association with presidential candidate Badri Patarkatsishvili, who has been under investigation for allegedly seeking to topple President Mikheil Saakashvili's administration, was used to justify its closure, and remains an ongoing source of contention for the government and its supporters. Patarkatsishvili, who lives in London, is expected to return to Tbilisi on December 14 to take over management of his presidential campaign. Although under Georgian law a registered presidential candidate cannot be arrested, Patarkatsishvili's campaign staff have demanded a guarantee for the tycoon's security. "We need a guarantee from the representative of the acting president, Nino Burjanadze, and at present we do not have such a guarantee," said Gocha Jojua, a member of parliament and one of Patarkatsishvili's campaign managers. "[W]e believe that the comments made by officials indicate that they will either arrest him when he arrives, or attempt to create such a situation so he cannot work." Saakashvili campaign spokesperson Davit Bakradze termed the immunity demand "absolutely illegitimate." "I would like to say that all presidential candidates are in equal conditions that are stipulated by the law. Correspondingly, neither the Central Electoral Commission nor any other structure can increase or decrease any candidate's personal security, given the fact that all this is regulated by the law, which places everyone in equal conditions," Bakradze said at a December 11 televised news briefing. Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee chairman, Levan Bejashvili, a member of the ruling United National Movement Party, stressed that law enforcement bodies have to go through the Central Election Commission if they want to press charges against a candidate. "There can be exceptions only if an offender is detained on the scene, but even in this case, power-wielding departments should inform the CEC, which is to permit further investigation within three days," Bejashvili told journalists on December 11. "Otherwise, the detained person should be released." Georgian media have reported that the tycoon has pledged to pay the population's electricity and gas bills for the next two years. Central Election Commission Chairman Levan Tarkhnishvili has countered that such a move could be interpreted as "indirect bribery of voters." Campaign staff have declined to comment pending Patarkatsishvili's return to Tbilisi. In response, Saakashvili has also made overtures to pay the public's utility debts; on December 11, he "urged" the government to negotiate with gas and electricity providers to pay for customers in arrears.
Frequently Asked Questions for Upcoming presidential elections on January 5, 2008