Georgia's chief election official quits as presidential elections approach

By bne IntelliNews August 13, 2013

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The head of Georgia's Central Election Commission (CEC), Zurab Kharatishvili, unexpectedly quit his post on August 12, less than three months before the October 2013 presidential elections.

Kharatishvili has not yet given any reason for resigning less than four years into his five year term, but CEC says he will issue a statement on August 15. President Mikheil Saakashvili now has15 days to nominate three potential replacements. The CEC membership - who are political party appointees - will then vote for their preferred candidate to take the chair.

The ruling Georgian Dream coalition has expressed suspicion over the resignation of the chairman - who was appointed under the previous government run by Saakashvili's United National Movement (UNM). The move could be an attempt to "stir some kind of intrigue", Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said on August 12, according to Civil Georgia.

Parliamentary chairman Davit Usupashvili said Kharatishvili's resignation is "incomprehensible". "[I]f he is bored with this job and is now thinking about something else, he probably should have done it earlier or after the election," Usupashvili told journalists.

However, UNM officials also expressed surprise at Kharatishvili's decision to quit, with the party's presidential candidate Davit Bakradze describing the decision as "regrettable".

Georgians will elect a new president on October 27, after Saakashvili steps down having completed two terms in office.

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