Conflict of Interest in Aspindza District Electoral Commission
Spouse of Aspindza District Electoral Commission secretary is a Georgian Dream candidate.
On September 6, the Central Election Commission (CEC) chose Nino Beridze as a member of Aspindza DEC no.39. On September 8, she was selected as a secretary of the same DEC.
A few days earlier, on September 1, the Georgian Dream nominated Nino Beridze’s husband Davit Partladze as a candidate for Sakrebulo membership in the majoritarian district no.1. As of September 25, Davit Partsladze is registered with Aspindza DEC as a majoritarian candidate for Sakrebulo Membership nominated by the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia. From September 1, he has been actively involved in election campaigning and is intensively meeting with voters together with the mayoral candidate within the election campaign.
The Georgian Dream’s mayoral candidate in Aspindza is a former chair of Aspindza DEC, Rostom Magrakvelidze. He was replaced by Nino Beridze after he left the office.
Under para.2 of Article 5 of the Code of Ethics for Officers of the Electoral Administration, if a member of an election officer’s family is registered as an electoral subject, the election officer must notify a higher electoral commission and/or the CEC in writing within five days. Otherwise, the election officer may be imposed with a disciplinary penalty.
On September 15, ISFED inquired with the CEC whether the contestant, Nino Beridze notified the CEC about political plans and activities of a member of her family – her spouse, and/or whether she submitted a written notice to a higher electoral commission after she was selected. The CEC responded with a letter dated September 19, saying that the electoral administration believes the obligation to notify does not apply to Nino Beridze because on September 6, candidate Nino Beridze was not an electoral officer, and as of September 19, her spouse had not yet registered in any of the electoral districts.
ISFED believes that the provision of the Code of Ethics in question aims to rule out conflict of interest and shield the so-called professional members of an electoral commission against political influences. Of note is the fact that selection of Nino Beridze as a member of the DEC and later as the DEC secretary was preceded by nomination of her spouse as the Georgian Dream’s candidate. Therefore, by the moment she was selected conflict of interest had already arisen. Therefore, based on the principles of integrity, neutrality and professional ethics, Nino Beridze, first as a contestant and later as a member of the DEC and an electoral officer selected as the DEC secretary, was obligated to notify the electoral commission about political activities of her family member.
ISFED believes that selection of Beridze contradicts the spirit of the Code of Ethics for Officers of the Electoral Administration, while the CEC’s explanation that the obligation to notify does not exist creates suspicions that the electoral administration is trying to avoid responsibility about the issue of conflict of interest.
ISFED urges Aspindza DEC to ensure selection of a politically neutral individual for the position of the DEC secretary, and the Central Election Commission to examine possible signs of violation of the Ethics Code by the electoral officer and take effective further actions.
During the monitoring ISFED also found DEC members appointed by political parties in different districts, who have a conflict of interest as members of their families have been nominated as electoral subject candidates. ISFED will publish information about these facts in the pre-election monitoring report.