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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07TBILISI2935 2007-11-20 14:49 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tbilisi

DE RUEHSI #2935/01 3241449
P 201449Z NOV 07

E.O. 12958: N/A 
 1.  (U)  SUMMARY:  On November 8, President Saakashvili 
announced snap Presidential elections and a plebiscite to ask 
voters for their views on the timing of Parliamentary 
elections.  This cable reviews the requirements for 
presidential candidates, election and plebiscite procedures, 
and proposed changes to the legislation affecting the 
Central, District, and Precinct Electoral Commissions.  End 
Who is Eligible and Filing Requirements 
2. (U)  Article 76 of the Constitution allows for 
presidential elections if the President is unable to 
discharge his or her authority or his or her term of office 
terminates early.  The Chair of the Parliament assumes the 
duties of the President in such a case.  A presidential 
election must take place within 45 days of the termination of 
the President's term in office, in the case of a resignation 
or other early termination.  President Saakashvili has 
announced elections for January 5, and we understand he 
intends to resign and transfer power to Nino Burjanadze, the 
Speaker of Parliament, on Sunday, November 25.  The 
Parliament has the responsibility to organize the elections, 
in cooperation with the Central Election Commission (CEC). 
Officially, the date of the elections is set by Parliament as 
well, but it is expected the Parliament, controlled by the 
President's National Movement supporters, will ratify 
President Saakashvili's decision to hold the elections on 
January 5. 
3.  (U)  Article 70 of the Georgian Constitution and Article 
80 of the Election Code state that any person may be elected 
President of Georgia if he or she is a native-born citizen of 
Georgia, has the right to vote, has attained the age of 35 
years, has lived in Georgia for 15 years, and is living in 
Georgia on the day on which the election is scheduled.  Any 
person who is convicted by a court and serving a sentence of 
imprisonment cannot participate in any election.  However, if 
a person is a suspect, being prosecuted, in pre-trial 
detention or even sentenced but not imprisoned, he or she may 
still register as a Presidential candidate and run for the 
Presidency.  With more than one potential presidential 
candidate, including Badri Patarkatsishvili, subject to 
criminal prosecution for their role in the November 7 unrest, 
the fact that persons under indictment can run and be elected 
is significant.  Once elected, the President enjoys personal 
immunity (Constitution, Article 75).  President Saakashvili 
has pledged that such candidates will not be hindered from 
running by the government.  Irakli Okruashvili is less than 
35 years old and is not eligible for the presidency. 
4.  (U)  Article 81 states a political party or a 5-person 
group of voters has the right to nominate a candidate for 
election as the President of Georgia.  The nomination of a 
candidate for election as the President of Georgia must be 
confirmed by the signatures of no less than 50,000 voters. 
Article 84 of the Election Code states that a candidate for 
the Presidency of Georgia undergoes registration by ordinance 
of the CEC chairman, no later than the 30th day prior to 
election day.  In an extraordinary presidential election, 
such as is about to occur, the party or voters' group must 
submit its candidate's nomination to the CEC no later than 40 
days before the election.  The list of 50,000 supporters must 
be submitted at least 30 days before the election date.  The 
CEC must make its decision to register the candidate, or not, 
at least 25 days before the election. 
Election Campaigning 
5.  (U)  Article 73 of the Georgian Election Code states that 
election campaigning may begin at the time of the 
announcement of the elections.  Candidates enjoy equal rights 
as of the day of the announcement.  Article 74 states that it 
is prohibited to forbid rallies and manifestations, except 
for cases when there are slogans calling for violation of 
human rights and liberties, the country's independence or 
territorial integrity, for instigation of national, ethnic, 
provincial, religious, and social strife, for overthrow of 
the constitutional system and replacing it by violence, and 
for propagation of war and violence.  Local governments are 
responsible to ensure the safety of meetings, rallies and 
other such campaign events. 
6.  (U)  Article 85 of the Election code states that as of 
the moment of registration at the CEC, candidates for the 
Presidency of Georgia may take part in the election campaign 
TBILISI 00002935  002 OF 004 
on a basis of equality.  They enjoy equal rights to use of 
the press and other mass media on all the territory of 
Georgia.  A candidate shall not be detained, arrested or 
searched before the official publication of the final 
election results by the CEC, unless a request from the 
General Prosecutor
of Georgia is agreed to by the CEC.  The 
CEC can order the release of a detained candidate. 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Election Results and Second Round Specifications 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
7.  (U)  Article 86 states that a candidate who receives more 
than half the votes of those voters taking part in the 
elections on the first round is considered elected.  No level 
of voter turnout for the first round is specified.  If no 
candidate receives more than half the votes, then a second 
round of elections takes place.  The second round is to take 
place two weeks after the general election (first round). 
The two candidates who have the best results in the first 
round have the right to take part in the second round of 
elections.  At least one-third of the total number of 
registered voters must take part in the second round for the 
winner to be elected.  The candidate who receives the most 
votes, but no less than one-fifth of the total number of the 
voters, is considered elected.  If no one is elected in the 
second round, the Election code has provisions for 
by-elections to be held within 2 months of the first round. 
Inauguration Ceremony 
8.  (U) According to Article 71 of the Constitution, before 
taking office, the new President must take an oath and make 
an address.  The ceremony is to take place on the third 
Sunday after the day of the election of the President.  In 
the present case, if the President is elected in the first 
round on January 5, the inauguration would be on January 20, 
Proposed Changes to the Election Code 
9.  (U) The Parliament's Legal Issues Committee has made the 
following proposals for changes to the election code, which 
were approved at a first hearing on November 15.  The 
proposed changes will most likely receive a second hearing on 
Tuesday, November 20.  All changes must be in force no later 
than November 26 to comply with mandatory time constraints 
prior to the elections. 
- The one-third turnout threshold and one-fifth vote 
threshold currently required to declare a winner in the 
second round of a presidential election would be abolished. 
- In the case of a tie for second place in the first round, 
the second place candidate who registered his or her 
candidacy first would advance to the second round of voting, 
along with the first place candidate. 
- The number of CEC members would be increased from 7 to 13 
(including the chair).  Six CEC positions (including the 
chair) would be filled by Parliament based on the President's 
nomination.  Seven CEC positions would be filled by parties 
funded by the state budget.  Currently, the parties that meet 
this condition are the United National Movement, New 
Rightists, Industrialists, Republican Party, Conservative 
Party, Labor Party and Freedom Party. 
- The term of the CEC chair and members would be reduced from 
6 to 5 years, although they would be allowed to be re-elected. 
- Termination of the authority of the CEC chair would 
automatically terminate the authority of the other 12 CEC 
- The number of seats on the Precinct Election Commissions 
(PEC) would increase from 9 to 13. 
- PEC's would be composed of four members nominated by the 
District Election Commission and nine members nominated by 
the three political parties gaining the most votes in the 
last local election (three members from each party).  The 
three parties that currently meet this condition are the 
United National Movement, New Rightists and Industrialists, 
which would thus each appoint three members to each PEC 
TBILISI 00002935  003 OF 004 
- The number of voters in each PEC would be reduced from 2000 
to 1500. 
- Polling locations would be posted in public buildings in 
lieu of the current practice of mailing voter identification 
- Invalid ballots would be counted in calculating voter 
- Court fees for filing election-related complaints would be 
- Registration of parties and candidates would become the 
responsibility of the whole CEC rather than just the chair. 
- Election campaigning inside the polling station would be 
prohibited on election day. 
- TV campaign commercials would be prohibited on Election Day. 
- The Adjara CEC equivalent would be abolished. 
- Media monitoring would take place. 
- International election observers would have no restrictions 
on their observation activities. 
- Election information will be published in several minority 
Amendments to the Law on Referendum 
- The fifty percent voter turnout threshold currently 
required for a referendum or plebiscite to be valid would be 
- The required opening times of the polls for a referendum or 
plebiscite would be changed to 0800-2000 from the current 
timeframe of 0700-2000. 
Referendum vs. Plebiscite 
10.  (U)  Georgian legislation recognizes two forms of 
national polling -- referendum and plebiscite.  The one 
difference is that the result of a referendum is legally 
binding, while the outcome of a plebiscite is only a 
recommendation.  In the case of the date of parliamentary 
elections, the government chose to hold a plebiscite, because 
the Constitution states that a referendum cannot "adopt or 
invalidate a law".  Therefore, the form of a plebiscite was 
chosen because the date of the parliamentary elections was 
set by the Constitution. 
11.  (U)  A draft law reflecting the outcome of a plebiscite 
must be submitted for approval to the Parliament by the 
President.  A plebiscite must be published one month prior to 
discussion of it in the Parliament to ensure nation-wide 
debate.  Therefore, upon completion of the one-month period 
from the publication of the amendments to the Constitution, 
the parliament will deliberate the issue.  The amendment has 
to pass three hearings and in order to be adopted must 
receive 2/3 of votes of the Parliament membership. 
Where the Rub Is 
12.  (U)  The opposition, by and large, criticizes the 
current composition of the CEC, District Electoral 
Commissions, (DEC) and Precinct Electoral Commissions (PEC), 
lowering of the number of PEC's from 2000 to 1500 and doing 
away with voter invitation cards, the government's manner of 
changing the majoritarian system, and not permitting voters 
same day registration. 
-  Chang
ing the number of CEC members from 7 to 13. 
Opposition members (Republicans and Conservatives) claim the 
ruling party will have an advantage because the 
Parliament-appointed CEC members and the chairman would all 
be National Movement nominees, even if they are not party 
affiliated.  Adding the National Movement appointee gives the 
government control of seven members.  Therefore, the 
opposition is demanding "equal" representation in the CEC. 
According to Dato Usupashvili, Republican leader, both the 
TBILISI 00002935  004 OF 004 
government and the opposition parties should have six members 
for each side.  Usupashvili also demands current CEC chairman 
Tarkhnishvili be dismissed and a new chairman elected. 
-  Composition of the DEC's and PEC's. The question remains 
unclear as to opposition representation at the lower levels 
of DEC's and PEC's.  Currently, DEC's are composed of five 
professionally qualified members, all of whom are selected by 
the CEC on the basis of a competition.  Political parties are 
not represented.  During the first hearing no changes were 
introduced to this provision.  Currently, PEC's consist of 9 
members, of whom three are selected by the CEC and six by 
three parties -- the National Movement, the Block of New 
Rightists/Industrialists, and the Labor party (two persons 
per party.)  The draft law only increases the number of 
commissioners, allotting four members to the CEC and three 
members to each of the above parties.  The opposition claims 
that other parties should be represented at the PEC level. 
According to Usupashvili, the ruling party is considering 
following the CEC model for PEC's, but he objects to this 
because of the lack of parity. 
- Limiting PEC's/Abolishing Voter Invitation Cards.  The 
opposition believes that both of these measures will offer 
unwarranted opportunities for manipulation by the ruling 
- Changes in the Majoritarian System for Election of Half the 
Parliament.  The National Movement supports revocation of the 
winner-take-all principle and supports introduction of a 
proportional representation principle, which is based on the 
party lists of candidates presented in 19 multi-seat 
constituencies throughout Georgia.  This proposal, though 
generally supported by the opposition, is not likely to be 
effective until after the Presidential elections. 
- Same day registration at the polls.  The United Council of 
the Opposition does not support allowing voters to register 
at polling stations on election day.  The draft law includes 
no reference to this, but the Parliamentary Majority has 
proposed allowing voters to register at polls on election day 
because of the short time for reviewing voter lists before 
the presidential election. 


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