The upcoming municipal elections on June 15 are the most complicated and complex in Georgia’s election history. We asked Central Election Commission (CEC) Chairperson Tamar Zhvania to write a blog for Agenda.ge to share her thoughts.
Agenda.ge thanks the author for her contribution and we appreciate that she found the time to share some interesting facts that readers possibly did not know before.
The official name of the upcoming elections is rather lengthy and complicated - the June 15 2014 Elections of Representative and Executive Bodies of Local Municipalities. But it is not just the name of the elections that is complicated, municipal elections are always harder to organize and administer than any other elections.
I have been involved in the election process in Georgia for as long as I can remember, and elections have become an integral part of my life, but there is a significant difference between being on the sidelines of the elections and being directly responsible for the conduct of the elections.
In this blog I want to highlight the three key issues that will very vividly demonstrate to you some of the challenges that the Election Administration is facing today.
The most hard to organize
Organization of the elections is one of the main challenges that we as an administration face. It is not only a large number of candidates that makes matters complicated; it is the complex procedures that require hard work of thousands of election administration employees that is a challenge.
"Municipal elections are always harder to organize and administer than any other elections," said Tamar Zhvania. Photo by N/ Alavidze/agenda.ge.
Election candidates represent various political parties, election blocs, and initiative groups and their positive assessment of our work is essential when it comes to assessing the overall election process in the country.
The other day, together with my colleagues, I was looking at the voters list and at the gender breakdown of the list in particular. According to our data, there are 1,866,514 female voters and 1,606,258 male voters in Georgia. The majority of voters in Georgia are female but unfortunately this proportion is not reflected in gender distribution of electoral candidates, where men are the overwhelming majority.
One of the new initiatives for the municipal elections is to produce a voter turnout data that will be broken down by gender and I am very excited about this. This data will be very helpful in the long run in our efforts to engage more women in elections.
Gender equality still remains to be a challenge and this is a topic that I deeply care about. I am happy to say that women are well represented at all levels of the election administration. But I understand that this is not enough. We all need to make more of an effort to raise public awareness on this matter. We need more women candidates and more women in decision making positions.Equal oppotunities for all
One other responsibility that comes with this job is connected with voters representing vulnerable groups.
Administration is responsible to create equal opportunities for voters from all social groups and this issue has been on the top of my agenda. I have made it a priority, and as a result, the CEC is implementing rigorous programs targeting ethnic minorities, youth, and persons with disabilities. I am happy to say that we have come a long way.
The Election Ensuring a better election environment for disabled voters is a third challenge that I wanted to discuss and it is an issue that requires our very special attention. We have had a number of meetings with groups representing persons with disabilities, and every time I have been impressed by their commitment and enthusiasm. These meetings are so inspirational that they make me want to do even more for them.
The CEC has worked hard in this direction and we are in a better place for the municipal elections compared to every other previous election. We now have adapted polling stations and voting booths to better suit people with disabilities. Also we will have TV ads accompanied by sign language, and polling stations will be equipped with magnifying sheets to aid visually impaired voters.
We are also mobilizing mobile groups, in cooperation with the organizations working on these issues, to assist voters with disabilities on Election Day. In addition, we have ensured that members of Precinct Election Commissions will receive additional training so they are better prepared and can be helpful to persons with disabilities.
"Ensuring a better election environment for disabled voters is a third challenge that requires our very special attention,"stressed Tamar Zhvania. Photo by N. Alavidze/agenda.ge
There is lot to be done before June 15 and it seems like there is never enough time.
I believe the Election Administration will be successful in overcoming the challenges ahead and will again deliver for Georgian citizens. I am very optimistic!