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Today, Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) opened the 6th edition of its traditional annual Democracy Conference #GEODEM2021 with the first online panel focusing on the topic – Substandard Election Conduct in Georgia: An Incurable Feature or Soluble Problem? Amid approaching the local elections of 2021, the representatives of academia, media, and civil society in Georgia discussed the following questions: Why does Georgia keep failing at registering free, fair and competitive elections that would channel political rivalry to the legislature?; How does political culture influence the conduct of elections in Georgia?;What institutional changes can be made to ensure the appropriate democratic quality of the next elections?; What are the sources of political distrust between ruling regimes and opposition in Georgia?; And How should it be ensured that rivaling parties accept results of elections?
The first panel was moderated by Prof. Ghia Nodia, Professor at Ilia State University. The speakers of the panel were: Julie George, Associate Professor, Queens College; Ketevan Bolkvadze, Assistant Professor, Lund University; Levan Tsutskiridze, Executive Director, Eastern European Centre for Multiparty Democracy (EECMD); and Jaba Devdariani, Founder, Civil.ge.
Prof. George pointed out that self-control employed by political elites is the most important factor that would contribute to the more free and fair election process. Ketevan Bolkvadze highlighted that the main issue in Georgia is related to the fact that the losing political party often finds itself in a very ambiguous state, where the parties are not guaranteed that their political future will not be put under the risk in case of losing the elections. Levan Tsutskiridze then discussed the issues of administrative management of the elections. According to him, the Central Election Commission of Georgia needs to be completely free from the political influence and the political parties need to distance from the election bodies and the election process – vote counting procedures and decision making need to become more electronic, which would leave little space for subjective interpretations of the election processes. Jaba Devdariani further elaborated on the points voiced by Levan Tsutskiridze and underlined that the direct participation component of citizens and independent public sector need to be strengthened in the administrative part of the elections. The aforementioned two components will significantly increase the public trust towards the elections and therefore, will contribute to the legitimization of the election results.
Each panel of #GEODEM2021 will be held via the online platform ZOOM. The 2nd panel will take place on June 2nd and will revolve around the issue of Polling Wars in Georgia: How to Ensure Trust? The online conference will be concluded on June 16th with the third panel on the topic – Populist Nationalism and Euroscepticism: Imagined or Real Threat for Associated Countries?
GIP’s annual Democracy Conference is organized with the financial support of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).