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    • Monday , 18:01 pm Military Personnel Vote Debated Ahead of Gardabani Gamgebeli Election

      <div><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Three main Georgian election monitoring groups said that existing rules regulating how military personnel can vote in local and majoritarian MP elections leave room for manipulating election results.</span></div> <div><br /> </div> <div>It has been an issue during majoritarian MP by-election in Sagarejo and it has re-emerged again ahead of the January 28 election of head (gamgebeli) of Gardabani municipality in the Kvemo Kartli region. Several major military facilities, including Vaziani military base, are located in the municipality.</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>According to the existing legislation military personnel can cast a ballot in local elections (mayor, local councils, gamgebeli) and majoritarian MP elections in a constituency where their base is located even if they are not locals of that district, but if they have to serve at that base for at least next one year. &nbsp;&nbsp;</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>Other voters can only cast ballot in local elections and majoritarian MP elections only in those constituency where they are registered. Georgian election monitoring groups – International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED); Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) and Transparency International (TI) Georgia say that applying the same rule to military service members would put them in equal conditions with other voters and contrary to Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli’s remarks this demand has nothing to do with depriving soldiers the right to vote.</div> <div><span class="Apple-tab-span" style="white-space:pre"></span></div> <div>The monitoring groups also said that allowing military service members to cast ballot in local elections in a constituency where they are not registered is fraught with risk of manipulating election results – an issue which is also source of concern for opposition parties.&nbsp;</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>The monitoring groups say that this is a problem especially in the condition when election administration says that it is not entitled to verify whether the list of those military personnel which the MoD says are eligible to vote in Gardabani has been compiled by the MoD in conformity with electoral code requirements.&nbsp;</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>According to MoD there are about 700 military personnel in Gardabani municipality, who are eligible to cast ballot in the January 28 elections of gamgebeli. A special polling station has been established at the 1st Artillery Brigade in the Vaziani base and personnel from the Krtsanisi national training center, as well as from the basic combat training center will cast ballot at nearby polling station.&nbsp;</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>Only the Georgian Dream (GD) ruling coalition and United National Movement (UNM) opposition party have nominated candidates for the January 28 election of gamgebeli in Gardabani.</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>UNM MP Mikheil Matchavariani said that unlike 2014 local elections, 700 military service members were registered in Gardabani ahead of the January 28 election because "the authorities are afraid of being defeated”.</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>MoD has invited election monitoring groups to inspect its military facilities and bases located in Gardabani municipality. But three major election monitoring groups – ISFED; GYLA and TI Georgia have declined the invitation.&nbsp;</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>The three groups said in a joint statement on January 24 that such visit to the military facilities "will not solve a problem, which can only be addressed through legislative amendments.”&nbsp;</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>In a statement on January 24 the Ministry of Defense expressed regret that some election monitoring groups have not accepted its invitation to visit military facilities in the Gardabani municipality and said that legislative amendments have been drafted "which will solve many important problems.”&nbsp;</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>According to the bill, MoD said, "military personnel will be able to exercise their right to vote at polling stations near [their bases] on the one hand and on the other no special polling stations will be established in military units.”&nbsp;</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili said at a meeting with non-parliamentary opposition parties on January 25 that special polling stations at military bases will no longer be established according to the government-proposed legislative amendments. Planned changes will not apply to Gardabani gamgebeli election this week as it has yet to be approved by the Parliament.</div> <div><br /> </div> <div>The election monitoring groups have also drafted a bill, which will be submitted to the Parliament for consideration, according to which only those military service members will be able to cast ballot in local elections and majoritarian MP elections, who are registered in that particular constituency.</div>