19 September 2003
OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission
Georgia, Parliamentary Elections 2003
Kipshidze str. Block II, Building I
Tbilisi, Georgia
tel.: +995 32 25 35 26, 25 35 27; fax: +995 32 25 35 23
e-mail: [email protected]
2 – 15 September 2003
On 2 September, the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission (EOM) in Georgia was
established to monitor the 2 November parliamentary elections. Some 400 OSCE/ODIHR shortterm election observers have been requested to monitor voting, vote counting and results
tabulation, making the EOM one of the largest and longest yet deployed. The international
community is taking a very strong interest in the forthcoming process.
On 1 September, Mrs Nana Devdariani was appointed Chairperson of the Central Election
Commission (CEC). Some opposition parties have criticized the lack of political balance of the
CEC. On 10 September, the CEC Chairperson appointed the Chairpersons of District Election
Commissions (DECs). Some parties have expressed concern that the selection process was flawed
as they claim to have received insufficient representation at this level.
The 2 November elections will be conducted under a mixed election system with 150 mandates
allocated proportionally through national election lists, and 85 mandates through pluralmajoritarian constituencies. Should candidates fail to secure the required majorities, second round
contests will take place by 4 December 2003, according to the CEC. The EOM will seek
clarification from the CEC on the manner of calculating the 7% of votes required for
representation, tabulation of the election results and their public dissemination.
The Unified Election Code (UEC) incorporates many recommendations made by the
OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. Overall it represents an
improvement over the previous legislation and further amendments adopted in August should have
a largely positive effect on proceedings, if implemented correctly and impartially.
The President has called a referendum to be held concurrently with the Parliamentary elections.
The question to be put to the electorate is “Do you agree to reduce the number of the members of
Parliament and define the number no more than 150?” The OSCE/ODIHR will not observe the
referendum, but will assess the consequences of the referendum on the parliamentary elections.
Voters will be able to choose from a wide array of parties. The candidate and coalition registration
deadlines have yet to expire.
The Georgian authorities have conducted a re-registration of voters in all areas that will hold
elections on 2 November. For the first time the data will be computerised, with some support of
the international community. However, the authorities of Adjara have yet to furnish the central
authorities with the data for the Autonomous Republic.
On 2 September 2003, the OSCE/ODIHR EOM was established in Georgia for the 2 November
parliamentary elections.1 The EOM headed by Julian Peel Yates (United Kingdom), consists of 31
election experts and long-term observers from 16 OSCE participating States. The main office is in
Tbilisi, with long-term observers (LTOs) based in the regions of Kakheti, Shida Kartli, SamtskheJavakheti, Imereti, Guria and A.R. Adjara. On 9 September, the EOM held a press conference to
introduce the mission and explain its mandate and the scale, scope and timing of its operations.
The press conference was reported widely. The EOM has met with President Shevardnadze upon
arrival. The EOM has also paid an initial visit to Adjara, and has deployed two experienced longterm observers to this region.
The OSCE/ODIHR has requested 400 short-term observers (STOs) to monitor proceedings on
election day. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Council of Europe (PACE) and the European Parliament (EP) have all indicated their intention to
participate in the election observation.
The 2 November parliamentary elections will be the fourth since Georgia regained independence
in 1991. The OSCE/ODIHR concluded that the conduct of the last parliamentary elections, which
took place in October and November 1999 “represented a step towards Georgia’s compliance with
OSCE commitments, although the election process failed to fully meet all commitments.” The
OSCE/ODIHR also observed the 2000 presidential elections and concluded that “considerable
progress is necessary for Georgia to fully meet its commitments as a participating State of the
OSCE.” The OSCE/ODIHR did not observe the 2002 local elections.
The international community has taken a very strong interest in the 2003 parliamentary elections,
which are considered crucial to Georgia’s future democratic development. James Baker, former
Secretary of State (United States of America) and President Bush’s special envoy to Georgia,
visited Tbilisi in July, during which he presented a “scorecard”, which set out an “action
timeframe” and called upon all election actors to honour some key principles.
Other events, which may indirectly affect the elections, include the IMF's decision to suspend its
programmes in Georgia and the sale of a 75% stake in the Georgian-US electric company AESTelasi, to the Russian electricity company RAO Unified Energy Systems.
Following the 1999 elections the Citizens Union of Georgia (CUG), founded by Eduard
Shevardnadze, were returned to power with a majority of deputies in Parliament. However, in
2001 the CUG began to fragment.
The first faction to leave the CUG founded the New Rights Party, led by Davit Gamkrelidze. The
party describes itself a “constructive opposition”, neither pro nor anti-presidential. In November
2001, former Justice Minister Mikheil Saakashvili returned to Parliament and formed the Georgian
National Movement and a new parliamentary faction drawing more MPs away from the CUG.
The National Movement defines itself as in opposition to the President. Both parties performed
well in the 2002 local elections. In 2003, Zurab Zhvania created a new party called “the United
One election expert was deployed from 11 August to monitor election developments prior to the deployment of
the EOM.
Democrats”. The party formed an electoral alliance with Nino Burjanadze (Speaker of
Parliament). This bloc, called the “Burjanadze-Democrats” does not support the President.
The CUG rated poorly during the 2002 June local elections and failed even to obtain a seat in the
Tbilisi City Council. However, earlier this year, in alliance with other parties, the CUG formed a
“pro-presidential” election bloc entitled “Alliance for New Georgia”. The coalition includes
parties which determine themselves as the political left or right, including the Green Party (GP),
the Silk Road and the Christian Democratic Party (CDP, led by former State Minister Vazha
Lortkipanidze), as well as two erstwhile opposition parties, the National Democratic Party (NDP)
and the Socialist Party (SP). The bloc is also supported by other parliamentary factions including
Tanadgoma (Support), Abkhazeti, New Abkhazeti/Christian Democrats and Regions of Georgia
and is likely to be supported by some incumbent MPs elected as independent candidates in 1999.
Other political organisations also support the bloc.2
The Union of Democratic Revival (Revival), in coalition with the SP and Century XXI Party,
gained 58 parliamentary seats in 1999. Revival is the party of Aslan Abashidze, Head of the
Autonomous Republic of Adjara. While Revival describes itself as opposition, its position often
seems to be ambiguous.
The Party “Industry Will Save Georgia” (IWSG), led by Giorgi Topadze, is also represented in
Parliament. IWSG describes itself as neither strongly pro nor anti-presidential.
The opposition Labour Party, led by Shalva Natelashvili, is represented in Parliament by only two
majority elected MPs. The party contested the results of the 1999 election results at the European
Court of Human Rights claiming to have surmounted the 7% threshold. The Labour Party
performed very well in the 2002 local elections.
The process of coalition forming has been intensifying since early September and is expected to
continue until 20 September, the deadline for registering an election bloc.
Georgia has a mixed election system. According to the Constitution of Georgia, the Parliament
consists of 150 deputies elected by a proportional system, while 85 are elected through a pluralitymajoritarian system. Thus, Parliament is composed of 235 deputies elected for a four-year term.
The proportional contest takes place in a single countrywide constituency, based on election lists,
with 7% of “the votes of those who participated in the election” required for a party or coalition to
participate in the allocation of seats. Candidates in plural-majoritarian election districts
(constituencies) require the signatures of 1,000 registered voters to be registered to contest the
election. The candidate who receives the largest number votes, but not less than one third of the
votes of “participating voters” is elected. Should none of the candidates achieve the required
number of votes, a second round run-off election will take place at a date to be determined in due
course, but no later than 4 December 2003. In the second round, to be elected the successful
candidate simply requires the highest number of votes.
Regarding the election system, the following issues are noteworthy:
Including: “Georgia in first place – Language, Motherland, Religion” (Chairman: Guram Sharadze); “Powerful
Regions – Powerful Georgia” (Chairman: Merab Samadashvili); Abkhazians in exile (leader: Tamaz
Nadareishvili); Veterans’ League; Taxpayers’ Union.
Elections will not take place in A.R. Abkhazia and parts of South Ossetia/Tskhinvali, as
these areas are presently not functioning under the authority of the central government;
however persons displaced by the conflicts in these areas will vote in the elections.
The election law provides that the mandates of members of Parliament (MPs) elected for
constituencies in Abkhazia in 1992 are re-appointed. Thus only 75 constituencies will hold
elections on 2 November.
The 7% representational threshold is unusually high, compared to a number of other OSCE
participating States.
In previous elections, the 7% representation threshold was calculated based on all votes cast,
i.e. including invalid votes. This anomaly could influence whether a party is represented in
Parliament or if a second round contest is required in plural-majoritarian constituencies.3
The election law provides that 10 election constituencies are established in Tbilisi and the
remaining 75 “in accordance with the territorial-administrative division of the country”.
Thus, most of the election constituencies coincide with the administrative districts.
However, according to data from previous elections, the sizes of the districts vary greatly
from some 4,000 in Kazbegi to 136,000 in Kutaisi,4 which challenges the OSCE
commitment regarding equal suffrage.
Both majority and proportional elections are considered valid if at least one-third of
registered voters participate in the polls.
The election will be conducted according to the Constitution (1995) and the Unified Election Code
(UEC) adopted in August 2001 as amended April 2002 and twice in August 2003. The legislation
now incorporates many recommendations made by the OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s
Venice Commission, including:
Permitting internally displaced persons to participate in the plurality-majority contests;
More detailed provisions regarding the creation of equal campaign conditions for
More latitude for Georgian election observers to carry out their activities;
Greater transparency in the work of election commissions;
Improved voting and counting procedures, thereby lessening the potential for fraud; and
Clear and more precise rules for the resolution of election disputes.
However, Parliament failed to adopt an amendment that would have introduced the obligatory
inclusion of female candidates on parties’ electoral lists, nor did it adopt measures proposed by the
President to tackle the potentially serious problem of election-related bribery.
Notwithstanding the fact that the August 2003 amendments were enacted close to the election, the
introduction of improved procedures should have a positive effect on proceedings. The amended
UEC provides for an adequate framework for the conduct of democratic elections. However, the
impartial application of legal provisions and the effective handling of election disputes will be of
utmost importance if an enhanced legal framework is to translate into an improved election
In 1999, the official number of votes for the Labour Party was less than 7% of the number of votes cast but
more than 7% of the valid votes cast.
Data from 2000
In addition, the amendments significantly altered the composition of election commissions; an
issue of considerable controversy during parliamentary debates, as well as altering the registration
procedures for candidates in plurality-majority contests.
On 2 September, following the submission of a petition signed by over 200,000 citizens, the
President decreed to hold a Constitutional Referendum concurrently with the parliamentary
elections. The question will be “Do you agree to reduce the number of the members of Parliament
and define the number no more than 150?” To pass, the referendum requires that 50% of registered
voters participate and a majority vote “Yes”. According to the media, in case the referendum is
successful, there are a number of important issues that require clarifications, including:
will there be a need for amendments to the constitution and what should be the required
majority for approval;
A lack of clarity regarding when the outcome of the referendum would take effect. The Law
on Referenda requires the immediate implementation of referenda results.
A lack of clarity regarding how the number of MPs would be reduced to 150 (or less) from a
lower house comprising 235 deputies and who would decide on which MPs would lose
The holding of the referendum may have technical and political implications for the parliamentary
elections. A number of important technical issues arise, not least whether each election will have a
separate voter list, important for determining if the different turnout requirements for each contest
have been met. In addition, other questions remain yet unanswered: whether the 3 ballots
(proportional, plurality-majority and referendum) will be placed in the same envelope; and the
determination of invalid votes and the number of ballot boxes to be used. Furthermore, some
inconsistencies between the UEC and the Law on referendum will require clarification, for
instance, different provisions on polling station opening times.
The OSCE/ODIHR EOM does not intend to observe the referendum. However, it will assess the
consequences of holding the referendum on the parliamentary elections.
Achieving broad political consensus on the composition of the CEC has been one of the most
intractable problems faced by Parliament in recent years. The reputation of the outgoing CEC was
severely tarnished by a series of poorly conducted elections.
Amendments to the UEC adopted in August provide for a CEC composed of 15 members: 5
appointed by the President, 3 by Revival, 2 by IWSG and one each by four opposition parties
(New Rights, United Democrats, National Movement and Labour), a formula represented as
5+3+2+4+Chairperson. Most of the former CEC members were replaced and some of their
controversial decisions were annulled. While no individual party can control the functioning of the
election administration, a tactical alliance between the 5 Presidential appointees and the 5
members appointed by Revival and IWSG would give this bloc a two-thirds majority and thus the
ability to take decisions without the support of the four opposition parties and the Chairperson.
Article 4 of the Constitution provides for a bicameral Parliament “when conditions are appropriate”. However,
the upper house, “the Senate” has yet to be formed. According to the Constitution, the members of the Senate
are to be elected from Abkhazia, Adjara and other territorial units of Georgia as well as 5 members appointed
by the President. The lower house, the Council of Georgia, will elect its members by proportional
representation. The composition, powers and procedures for election to the chambers are determined by
organic law.
Some political parties have also appointed non-voting proxies to the CEC, of whom some are
former members the outgoing CEC, including the former Deputy Chairperson (from July to
August 2003, the CEC Chairperson).
The UEC provides that the OSCE will nominate the CEC Chairperson. The OSCE Chairman in
Office (CiO) declared his readiness to submit a short list of candidates for the consideration of the
President to appoint one of the nominees. Ambassador Liviu Bota was appointed as the Special
Representative of the CiO. On 30 August, the “Ad Hoc Advisory Commission on the Selection of
a CEC Chairperson” consisting of Ambassador Bota and Plamen Nikolov, the Special
Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in Georgia submitted a threeperson list of nominees. On 1 September, the President appointed Nana Devdariani, the
incumbent Public Defender. Many political parties have criticised her appointment, alleging links
to the pro-presidential bloc. Others have received the appointment more positively. Clearly, the
actions of the Chairperson will be subject to intense scrutiny. An assessment of the new CEC will
be based on its transparency, impartiality and objective handling of election complaints and
District Election Commissions (DECs) are composed on the same basis as the CEC
On 10 September, the CEC Chairperson appointed 75 DEC
Chairpersons, in a single decision. While a plurality of political interests has been appointed to the
individual positions, some parties have complained at the scale of their representation. Indeed, the
issue of appointing DEC chairpersons was almost as contentious as the appointment of the CEC
Chairperson. The CEC representative of the Labour Party lodged an appeal against the decision of
the CEC Chairperson. On 14 September, the Tbilisi District Court upheld the CEC Chairperson’s
decision and awarded court costs against the Labour Party. EOM observers will meet DEC
Chairpersons and seek to establish how many appointments each party received.
The challenges facing the incoming CEC include: their ability or otherwise to meet tight deadlines,
organisational challenges stemming from wholesale changes of personnel close to the election,
financial constraints and the concurrent holding of a referendum. The CEC has been granted a
budget, but the funds have yet to be fully disbursed. The CEC Chairperson informed the EOM of
a shortage of transparent ballot boxes (required under Georgian legislation) and she has concerns
over the funding of other election materials including the special paper used for printing ballots
and ultraviolet ink, used to mark voters’ fingers.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for organising voting by Georgian citizens residing
out-of-country. Previously only those citizens registered with diplomatic missions were eligible to
vote. New procedures entitle such persons to register to vote, up to 21 days before the elections,
without registering their status with the Georgian Embassy or Consulate. Approximately 20,000
voters are already registered with the 16 Embassies identified thus far as polling stations abroad.
The OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities is funding a project to translate the UEC
and election training and information materials into Azeri, Armenian and Russian languages to be
used by minority populations, particularly in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli Regions.
According to the 2002 census, Georgia’s population decreased from 5.5 million to 4.4 million
between 1989 and 2002. The census did not include Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali. In
2000, some 3 million voters were registered. Unlike previous elections, citizens are not eligible to
register to vote on supplementary election day voter lists. The accuracy of the voter registers thus
assumes an even higher importance.
The Georgian authorities have conducted a voter registration programme to correct deficiencies
noted in previous elections For the first time, the registration data is being computerised under a
project managed by the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES).
In June 2003, the Ministry of Internal Affairs compiled voter records for some 1.8 million citizens.
In addition the Ministry of Justice prepared an additional list of 300,000 persons. However, the
accuracy of this list required verification to remove deceased persons. In addition, some 900,000
records for Tbilisi residents were already in existence, bringing the total number of electors to
approximately 3 million. However, this figure excludes internally displaced persons, and records
for A.R. Adjara.
Currently, the accuracy of data input is being verified. However, a large number of addresses are
missing from registration entries, especially in Tbilisi, preventing the authorities from allocating
electors to constituencies and election precincts. Once the data entry process is completed, voter
lists will be displayed for public inspection.
The deadline for registration of non-parliamentary parties expired on 2 September and for
parliamentary parties on 7 September. On 12 September, the Central Election Commission (CEC)
decided that some 43 parties are eligible to contest the election. The CEC will register election
blocs by 26 September. Parties and coalitions have until 2 October to notify the CEC of the
candidates on their electoral list. Independent candidates in plurality-majority constituencies must
register with the CEC or DECs by 2 October.6 On 8 October the CEC takes a decision on
registering the party/coalition electoral lists and on 13 October the CEC decides on candidate
registration for party nominated candidates in plural-majoritarian constituencies.
The election contest is likely to be a hard fought contest, with a number of parties able to mount
credible, countrywide campaigns.
Political parties were entitled to begin campaigning as soon as the elections were scheduled. Thus,
the campaigns of most parties are ongoing, although those of the major opposition parties are more
in evidence than the pro-presidential bloc. During the reporting period the campaign environment
has remained calm.
On 25 August the outgoing CEC adopted a Resolution severely restricting the freedom of the
media to cover the election coverage. Indeed, the Resolution prohibited the media from
broadcasting any election campaign related information, with effect from 14 September. On 3
September the Tbilisi District court cancelled the Resolution. The CEC Chairperson publicly
welcomed the Court’s decision. On 15 September the CEC adopted a Resolution, that inter alia
limits the amount of airtime devoted to the election campaign to no more than 15% of the daily
broadcast time for both paid and free airtime. The UEC foresees an equal distribution of free of
charge airtime among all election contestants on the State TV.
Sitting MPs and candidates representing parties previously registered, apply to the CEC to contest a
constituency. Other candidates register with the District Election Commission (DEC).
Beginning on 9 September, the EOM has conducted qualitative and quantitative analyses of
selected media outlets to assess the coverage of relevant political subjects prior to the
commencement of the formal campaign period in the media.7
Domestic civil society organisations plan to deploy election observers on election day. These
organisations may conduct a partial parallel vote tabulation or “quick counts” to check on the
accuracy of the results tabulation. Serious concerns have been expressed regarding the ability of
domestic observers to operate in Adjara in view of previous experience during the last elections.
The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), the main domestic civil
society organisation involved in election observation, is monitoring the process and has issued an
assessment report.
On 12 September, the EOM held its inaugural weekly meeting with representatives from the
diplomatic Missions of OSCE participating states and International Organisations (OSCE Mission
to Georgia, UNOMIG, UNDP, Council of Europe, European Commission Delegation and IOM).
The EOM is grateful for the excellent support received from the OSCE Mission to Georgia. The
EOM is attending the meetings of the Technical Working Group (TWG) chaired by OSCE
Mission to Georgia, and the Ambassadorial Working Group (AWG), chaired by UNDP.
The EOM is monitoring four TV stations and four newspapers. TV stations: 1 st Channel of State-owned TV, 8
hours per day; Rustavi 2 (private), 8 hours per day; TV Adjara (Founded by the authorities of A.R. Adjara) and
Imedi (private). Newspapers: Sarkatvelos Respublika (State-founded); Akhali Taoba (private); Rezonansi
(private) and Alia (private).