Opinion: The sanctity of the secret ballot.

A secret ballot is an essential prerequisite of any free election. Even in the most sophisticated of democracies ensuring the privacy of the voter so that his or her choice will be secret is a crucial part of the electoral process.

The issue becomes much more serious in societies in transition where voter intimidation is widespread, and where vote buying remains a serious problem, resulting in a voter needing to show his vote to the buyer to justify the payment. More…

Georgians support having more women in politics, but social barriers remain entrenched.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) released a report last week on the Perception of Women in Georgian Politics.

The data presented in the report, titled “Focus Group Findings on Perceptions of Women in Georgian Politics: An Assessment of Perceptions of Women as Political Candidates and Elected Officials” was carried out by the Institute of Social Studies and Analysis (ISSA), a research organisation based in Tbilisi. ISSA conducted eight focus groups of 7-10 participants across the country in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Marneuli to tease out attitudes in Georgian society towards women in politics. More…

Editorial in The Times on 22 August 2012. “Georgia on our mind”

The influential London Times newspaper on 22 August published an editorial on the forthcoming Parliamentary Elections in Georgia. We reprint here the editorial in full:

Back in the bad old days, or so it is said, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, when apprised of the malefactions of a South American dictator, replied: “He may be a sonofabitch, but he’s our sonofabitch.” This sentiment was self-defeating enough then, discouraging as it did the development of democracy in regions that have never forgiven the West for its double-speaking. Now it is nearly impossible. It has become more and more difficult for democratic countries to give their wholehearted support to nations and leaders who deny liberty and constrain democracy. More…

Why the London Times is right in saying that the Georgian elections must be fair, and be seen to be fair.

There are less than five weeks left before the much anticipated parliamentary elections in Georgia. The campaign has now started in earnest, the machine of the electoral process is in full swing, and politicians are taking to the streets of the towns and villages in a way not quite seen before. This could and should be, Georgia’s best election ever.

The Georgians have a clear choice between two major political forces – President Saakashvili’s United national Movement and Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream Bloc. The two are offering different alternative visions for the country’s future – even if on important issues of foreign affairs the two seem to agree on the most important elements, including Georgia’s pro-western orientation and European ambitions.

The process has however been marred by the attempts of the Georgian government to box in its rival through a labyrinth of laws and regulations that have got little to do with the democratic process, but much to do with an electoral victory by stealth. This not to mention the fact that the main opposition person, Bidhzina Ivanishvili, was stripped of his Georgian citizenship the moment he announced his political ambition. The international and local outcry that ensued resulted in ad hoc legislation being rushed through parliament to allow Ivanishvili to remain in the race – but still without his citizenship. The Georgian authorities may have not fully understood how petty and ill-conceived these steps were perceived by Georgia’s friends overseas. More…

Karabakh elections cause controversy outside, but are welcomed inside. 3

The Elections held in the self-declared Nagorno- Karabakh Republic that took place on 19 July stirred considerable controversy outside, but in the territory itself they were welcomed by both winners and losers as an example of the determination of the voters to establish democratic rule.

There were 98,909 voters eligible to vote, according to the territory’s Central Elections Commission. Of these 72,833 actually voted, resulting in a turnout of 73.4%. Incumbent President Bako Sahakyan was re-elected having received 47,085 votes (66.7%), whilst the main opposition candidate Vitaly Balasanyan received 22966 votes (32.2%). The third candidate Arkady Soghomonyan received 594 votes which is 0.8 percent of total votes. More…