Statement of ISFED about Results of Competition held by the High Election Commission of Adjara

ISFED issues this statement in response to selection of members of the High Election Commission of Adjara in July 2015. We believe that candidates were selected on the basis of their political affiliation. As a member of the Commission, ISFED had been involved in the work of the commission since the day of announcing an open competition. 

By virtue of Law of Adjara Autonomous Republic on Election of High Council of Adjara Autonomous Republic, a candidate for chairmanship or membership of the High Election Commission of Adjara may not be affiliated with any political parties. This is not merely a formal requirement; rather, it implies political neutrality of candidates. However, we found out that 19 out of 24 candidates have gained their experience in elections while working with political parties. For public they are strongly affiliated with one political party or another. From the very beginning ISFED was urging the Commission to select politically neutral candidates based on their professional skillset and experience, and not let the Chairperson of the Government of Adjara and the High Council to make politically motivated decisions. Without following the above suggestion, the Commission nominated 9 candidates to the Chairperson of the Government of Adjara, only three of whom were not politically affiliated, and 6 candidates before the High Council of Adjara, only one of whom was not politically affiliated with any of the parties.  

Political affiliation of all three individuals selected as members of the High Election Commission of Adjara is unambiguous, which is why we believe that they were selected by the High Council of Adjara on political basis. One of the newly selected members, Zurab Gorgiladze had served for a few years as a member of Kobuleti District Election Commission from the Republican Party since 2003; during 2012 elections he served as a proxy of the coalition Georgian Dream in Kobuleti Election District, while working as a lawyer at the election office of the coalition in Kobuleti. Another newly selected member, Ramaz Golomanidze is a member of Keda Sakrebulo. Based on July 6 letter received from Sakrebulo, he is also a chairman of faction Georgian Dream – National Forum and a member of a party National Forum. Third recently selected member of the Commission, Tornike Mzhavanadze, has been a member of Batumi Election District Commission since 2013, representing a party Free Democrats, while in 2012-2013 he served in the High Council as a specialist invited by the faction Georgian Dream-Free Democrats.  
We believe that the High Election Commission should be especially trustworthy and selection of its members must be based on merit as opposed to political affiliation; otherwise, it may be viewed as a politically biased organization. 

In addition, competition commission manned by five members of the Office of Adjara Government and two representatives of NGO sector does not ensure a meaningful parity. To improve neutrality and objectivity of the Commission, it must be manned by equal numbers of representatives of governmental and non-governmental sectors, which is why we recommend revision of regulations for selection members of the Commission in the future.