54 persons have applied to the Central Election Commission (CEC) for registration as candidates for the October 27 presidential elections before the deadline expired on the evening of September 7.
Majority of them, at least 44, are either little known or virtually unknown persons for the wider public.
Six have been denied by the CEC to proceed with further procedures required for being registered as a candidate, including collection of at least 26,530 signatures of citizens (0.75% of number of voters); September 17 is a deadline for submitting citizens’ signatures.
In at least three cases would-be candidates were rejected on the grounds of dual citizenship – ex-foreign minister Salome Zourabichvili was among them; but Zourabichvili continues legal battle and she still has a chance to be registered if the Court of Appeals overrules lower court’s verdict, which upheld CEC’s decision.
So far the CEC has registered as candidates five persons; September 27 is a deadline for CEC to register presidential candidates.
The politicians running in the election, among others, include: Giorgi Margvelashvili of the Georgian Dream governing coalition; Davit Bakradze of UNM; Nino Burjanadze, a former parliamentary speaker; leader of Christian-Democratic Movement Giorgi Targamadze; Labor Party leader Shalva Natelashvili; former GD lawmaker Koba Davitashvili; former Labor Party member Nestan Kirtadze; leader of Traditionalist Party Akaki Asatiani; former chairman of CEC Zurab Kharatishvili.
A pre-election international delegation, organized by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and funded by the USAID, said in its statement (pdf) after wrapping up a fact-finding visit to Georgia on September 6, that “voters in Georgia this fall look poised to benefit from a more open electoral environment than in Georgia’s recent” parliamentary elections in October, 2012.
“As Georgians prepare to elect a new president in October, they enjoy an electoral environment shaped by the fundamentals of democracy: the first peaceful transfer of power through the ballot box; a credible political opposition; a parliament characterized by meaningful debate and decisions; an increasingly independent judiciary; an active civil society; and a lively media environment,” reads the statement. “These are positive, albeit fragile developments.”
It also says that the concerns which political actors shared with the NDI delegation “are serious but less widespread than those raised last year.”
“If Georgia conducts an election which meets international standards and enjoys the confidence of the population, it will help advance a democratic culture based on consistent principles and predictable rules. This would be a remarkable achievement in the region,” the NDI delegation said. “To achieve this, however, Georgian officials need to decisively tackle issues that could adversely affect the integrity of the election process. The assessment delegation heard serious concerns about politically-motivated violence, interrogations and investigations, changes of political authority at local levels outside the electoral process, and intolerance toward minorities.”
The seven-member delegation included: former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman; former Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan; former European Union Ambassador to Georgia, Per Eklund; Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson; NDI President Kenneth Wollack; NDI Regional Director for Eurasia Laura Jewett; and NDI Resident Director in Georgia, Luis Navarro.