Proposed amendments to the Election Code of Georgia include some positive changes but raise some new concerns which add to long-standing fundamental issues that remain unaddressed, said the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR in their joint urgent opinion on draft amendments to the Election Code of Georgia published on 30 April 2021.
The Venice Commission and ODIHR underline the importance of the stability of electoral law, which is a precondition to public trust in electoral processes and implies that electoral legislation, and especially its fundamental elements, should be amended well before the next elections. The practice in Georgia of frequently amending the electoral legislation risks undermining the integrity of the electoral process and ongoing efforts to consolidate democracy, they note. Moreover, the timing of the currently proposed changes, less than one year before the next local elections planned for the second half of 2021, gives rise to concerns.
In a separate urgent opinion on the appointment of Supreme Court judges, published on 29 April 2021, the Venice Commission welcomed the amendments to the Organic Law of Georgia on Common Courts, which have taken into account several of its previous recommendations. Nevertheless, there are certain outstanding recommendations that should be considered in order to ensure even greater clarity of the legislation, transparency and fair treatment for all candidates. As far as shortlisting and voting are concerned, the Venice Commission has praised the amendments for explicitly mentioning the principle of equal treatment of candidates, shortlisting only candidates who have achieved the best results, and disclosing the identity of the voting members of the High Council of Justice.