Raising the Dead: The Voting List Conundrum


How many voters are there in Georgia? Every four years this question becomes particularly important and especially before the parliamentary elections. This year is no exception, as this question has already been raised. And left unanswered. The data from the Ministry of Justice and that of the National Statistics Office do not coincide. And the difference is vast: as much as 600 thousand people. The data from the Ministry suggests that there are 3.5 million voters, while the Statistics Office says there are only 2.9 million.

Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani held a special briefing last week at which she announced the new data. 3,539.949 is the number of voters that the Ministry has sent to the Central Electoral Committee. Tsulukiani said that this record shows 98 thousand fewer voters than recorded earlier and that this brings the probability of so-called ‘dead souls’ being listed, to the minimum.

If we take into consideration the 5% election barrier the participating electoral subjects need to overcome, then 98 thousand votes is truly an impressive figure. However, what the Minister boasted to doing was regarded as an illegal action by opponents. The Chairman of the political party New Rights, Mamuka Katsitadze, declared Tsulukiani guilty of initiating an apartheid law. “Those 98 thousand voters that were removed from the so-called registration address were not listed in this database. These are the voters who have sold their apartment for various reasons, bank loans mainly. These people do have IDs, but the government tells them: “You lost your apartment, now you lose your right to vote.” The voters from this category are the ones who protest the most, the ones who lost their apartment, and no government wants them on the electoral list. The government got rid of them through Tsulukiani, exactly because of their negativity,” Katsitadze declared.

Members of the parliamentary majority also commented on the lists. Gia Zhorzholiani thinks that the difference might come from the methodology used. “I believe that the lists presented by the Electoral Committee correspond to the rules with which these lists were to be defined,” he said. “Americans do not pay attention to those details, the main thing is what the pre-electoral situation looks like. They recognize that there is a big improvement in this regard and that the pre-electoral situation is not ‘hysterical,’” said Guguli Magradze.

The main surprise around this epic electoral list was not in the Ministry of Justice, but in the National Statistics Office. A few days before the briefing by the Minister, the Office published the results of General Census 2015, the data of which suggests that 3.7 million people live in Georgia, out of which 78%, or 2.9 million, have the right to vote. After making these figures public, both state units explained the difference by having different methodologies for counting. The Statistics Office said that they tracked only those citizens who were in Georgia during the period of polls and not all those people who have been granted an ID from the Ministry of Justice.

It is hard to argue with the statisticians, however, whether the census covered all Georgia or not is hard to say as the documentation proving this has yet to be published by the Office. If we take into consideration the results that Georgian Dream got in the last parliamentary elections, we will see that 1,181.862 votes were enough to gain them a win, while the National Movement got 867,432, coming in at second place. As the politicians claim, exactly this 600 thousand difference might become vital in the parliamentary elections of 2016 and might even trigger a revolutionary development to the events, similar to 2003.

The electoral procedures have become more and more complicated from election to election. The case of listing has even produced a revolution: when in autumn 2003, at the end of the faulty government under President Eduard Shevardnadze, the lists were so messy that you couldn’t even differentiate the dead from the living. So, as things stand, it’s not totally unimaginable that we might witness another revolution this autumn.

Zaza Jgarkava

05 May 2016 19:26