Sergo Ratiani stated: "The two highest political figures of Georgia, the President and the Prime Minister, have met each other, planned something and made a statement in regard to elections but they failed to think and failed to fit all of these issues with the existing legislation. This could be something funny, but it represents a very obvious example of a lack of ability and unprofessionalism."

FactCheck

sought to gain a further understanding of the issue.

On 5 April 2016, the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, held a meeting with the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, and other representatives of the legislative and executive branches of the government. After the meeting, the President held a briefing and announced

the date for the Parliamentary elections as 8 October 2016. On 6 April 2016, the decrees of the President of Georgia about setting the date for the 2016 Parliamentary elections and the elections for the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Ajara were sent to the Prime Minister for countersignature. According to the information of the President’s Press Service, both decrees will go into force on 8 August 2016.

Civil society believes that the President’s decrees, which set the date for the elections as 8 October whilst the date of their coming into force was set at 8 August, contradict Georgia’s elections legislation. According to Georgia’s elections legislation, the elections campaign and all of the related regulations are linked to the date of the official publication of the legislative act which sets the date for the elections.

According to Article 108 of the Elections Code of Georgia, the President of Georgia issues the decree about setting the date for the elections no later than 60 days before voting day with this decree requiring the countersignature of the Prime Minister. According to the Law of Georgia on the Structure, Authority and Rules of Operation of the Government of Georgia, every legal act issued by the President of Georgia, which requires countersignature, is sent to the Prime Minister no later than the second day after the publication of the act. In ten days, the Prime Minister brings the act to a governmental meeting for discussion. If the Government of Georgia approves the President’s legislative acts, the Prime Minister signs it which completes the countersignature process.

Furthermore, the decree about setting the date for the elections should be published on the official website of the Central Election Commission of Georgia and through media outlets no later than the next day following the countersignature. According to the first part of Article 45 of the same law, the elections campaign starts immediately after the publication of the legal act which sets the elections date. Therefore, if Giorgi Kvirikashvili gives his countersignature concerning the President’s decree, the elections date is considered to be set and the elections campaign regime will start automatically after the publication of the President’s act.

Non-governmental organisations are of the opinion that the official launch of the elections campaign six months before the elections themselves will bring certain negative consequences. The joint statement of the NGOs reads that the elections campaign entails the imposition of a peculiar legal regime which affects budget spending, public services activities, the initiation and implementation of social projects and the making of stricter media regulations, etc.

Giorgi Kvirikashvili stated: "We do not have the luxury of spending an additional GEL 7 or 8 million only because we turn the switch on now. Today, we discuss financial and technical issues, the CEC is involved in the discussion process and then only after the consultations we will make the decision to turn on the switch. The country should not live for seven or eight months under an elections campaign." Therefore, in order to avoid misunderstandings and problems, it is necessary to postpone the publication of the President’s decree which sets the elections date. This is possible if the President himself withdraws the legislative act sent to the Prime Minister or if the Prime Minister refuses to countersign the document.

At the present moment, the Government of Georgia has not officially refused the countersignature of the President’s decree. According to the law, the Government of Georgia has ten days to make a decision although it is not known when the ten-day period ends. FactCheck asked the Adviser of the President, Kakha Kozhoridze, for precise information. According to Mr Kozhoridze’s statement, it is not clearly defined if the ten-day period means ten calendar days or ten working days although the Administration of the Government of Georgia said that it should be ten working days. As clarified by a representative of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, Nino Lomjaria, if the law does not explicitly say whether or not these are calendar days or working days, we should assume the meaning to be working days. So far, FactCheck

has been unable to receive a reply from the Administration of the President of Georgia about the President’s plans (specifically, whether or not the President intends to withdraw the decree about the elections date which has already been sent to the Government of Georgia). According to Kakha Kozhoridze’s statement, society needs a concrete answer and this will be announced very soon.

Conclusion

According to the agreement between the President and the Prime Minister of Georgia, 8 October was selected as the date for the 2016 elections. According to the Elections Code of Georgia, after the decree about setting the elections date is published, the country automatically moves under an elections campaign regime. However, according to the President’s decree, the elections campaign will be launched after the legal act goes into force and not after its publication (the President decreed that the legislative act will go into force on 8 August 2016) which indeed contradicts the existing legislation.

Therefore, FactCheck concludes that Sergo Ratiani’s statement is TRUE.

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