Local Locals

Adjara Autonomous Republic would have its own Local Elections

Officials of the Adjara Autonomous Republic announced that the locals scheduled for June 2, 2002 would be held at a later date in Autonomous Republic. The decision of the Adjara government was reached unilaterally and without consent of the central government, thus exposing once again the flaws in country’s policy and legislation.

Hamlet Chipashvili, head of Adjarian Representation in Tbilisi, told the Civil Georgia: “Legislation of the Adjara Autonomous Republic allows as appointing election day independently. Elections in Adjara were postponed due to numerous unsettled organizational problems and there was no single specific reason of delay.”

However, some experts say that such a decision of the republic is a direct violation of the Georgian Constitution.

“President of Georgia designated June 2 as the day of local elections and according to the Constitution, this date should not be changed in Adjara Autonomous Republic”, MP Vakhtang Khmaladze, who also participated in drafting of the constitution text, told the Civil Georgia.

There is a number of legislative documents in Georgia, that can be applied in this case: the Constitution of Georgia, the Organic Law on Local Self-governance and Governance, the Election Code, the Constitution of the Adjara Autonomous Republic and the Organic Law on Local Self-governance and Governance of the Adjara Autonomous Republic.

These documents interpret certain issues differently, including the rules on scheduling the elections. The Constitution of Georgia says that the President shall appoint the Parliamentary Elections and elections to other representative bodies. But the law of the Adjara Autonomous Republic gives different definition.

According to the common sense and general practice the Constitution of Georgia should have priority over all other legislative acts. However, Adjara leadership has challenged this provision several times. The elections were similarly re-scheduled during the local elections of 1998 and some say the Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze chooses to deliberately ignore the national laws.

The observers say rescheduling the elections helps fraud, as both voter turnout and the observer activism tend to decline. Adjara has especially dubious record in freedom of elections, especially as local independent observers, such as Georgian NGOs, were never allowed to monitor the elections in Autonomous Republic, despite the fact that this right is granted by the Georgian laws.

However, MP Hamlet Chipashvili claims that on June 16, every organization will have the possibility for monitoring.

Non-governmental organization International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy [ISFED], whose representatives were not permitted to monitor elections last year, intends to appeal elections commission of Adjara with request to monitor local elections. “I hope the commission will allow us to monitor the process of elections this time,” Nugzar Kupreishvili of ISFED told Civil Georgia. 

Even with observer attendance allowed, the contradiction between the local and national legislations is apparent, and no solution is yet in sight.

There are two ways to resolve contradiction between the laws: the law can be replaced or amended by the body which passed it; or the President or one fifth of the national parliament members can appeal to the Constitutional Court for cancellation of the law which contradicts the constitution. However, neither President nor the MPs seem to be very eager to make such move against powerful regional leader.

By Salome Jashi, Civil Georgia