ISFED’s statement on the President's veto on amendments to the CEC composition rules

On June 26, the President of Georgia vetoed the amendments made by the Parliament on June 13 to the Election Code and Rules of Procedures of Parliament that intends to change the rules about the composition of the Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC). In particular, amendments intend that the candidates for the position of chairperson and professional members of the CEC are selected and presented to the Parliament by the Chairperson of the Parliament, instead of the President. In addition, Parliament will be able to select nominated candidates to the position for a full term (5 years) with a simple majority (76 votes), instead of the current requirement, ⅔ of the Parliament (100 votes).

The changes adopted in the third reading will further reduce the independence of the CEC, increase the influence of the ruling party, and greatly reduce the role of the President in the process of selecting candidates, which will ultimately have a negative impact on public trust towards the CEC and, in general, the election process.

It is worth noting that the European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, while assessing the progress achieved on the path of Georgia's accession to the European Union, stated, on June 22, that in order to fulfill the 12 priorities presented to Georgia, it is necessary to reverse the electoral amendments changing the appointment procedure of the CEC chairman.

In addition, the presented changes are contrary to the political agreement of April 19, 2021 and the recommendations of the Venice Commission/OSCE/ODIHR. The changes were negatively evaluated by domestic organizations as well.

In order to receive the status of a candidate country for the EU membership, it is important to fulfill 12 priorities, one of the points of which refers to increasing the independence of institutions and taking into account the conclusions of the OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe/Venice Commission.  Accordingly, we once again call on the Parliament of Georgia to make the procedure for electing Chairperson and professional members of the CEC consistent with the principles set in the political agreement of April 19, 2021.