People Elect Sakrebulo Not Knowing What it Does

By Maka Malakmadze
Brosse Street Journal
Wednesday, October 18 2006

Despite the fact that officially voting at polling stations ends at 8.00 p.m, elections of the local self-government Sakrebulo (city council) in Adjara can be considered as already held because there is no article in the Election Code of Georgia, which defines any kind of barrier that is required for electorate to cast their vote in order to acknowledge self-government elections legal said Malkhaz Bolkvadze, the lawyer of No79 Election District in Batumi, to journalists while sharing the latest data of the elections at 5.00 p.m.

Polling stations opened in Batumi at 8.00 a.m. However, at two minutes to eight four people were already waiting outside the No2 polling station on Memed Abashidze Avenue. David Mikadze, 48, a painter, was the first person waiting in the line. Despite the fact that he did not know the rights and obligations of Sakrebulo, as soon as he woke up, get dressed and went to the polling stations. "One fact that I know for sure is that the opposition should be more strong" - said Mikadze. No 2 polling station is one of the biggest in the city. It combines 10 streets and has 1610 registered voters.

Aza Tsintsadze, 58, pharmacist, and Yuri Zakareishvili, 65, a worker, are registered in No 7 polling station, which has 1771 voters totally. They also did not know Sakrebulos competence.
Some other voters of the polling stations No 10 on Ninoshvili street and No 6 in Rustaveli street also could not talk about rights and obligations of Sakrebulo, but 4 people out of 30 knew that Sakrebulo was engaged in social and economic development and management of a city.

So what it are the rights and obligations of the Sakrebulo?

Chapter V of the self-government law on Competences and Functions of the Representative Body of the Local Self Government stipulates that Sakrebulo is obliged to form temporary working groups of Sakrebulo; control activities of officials of the executive body of the local self-government; select Governor (Mayor); adopt and control budget of local government entity; adopt the prospective plan for the city development and supervise it; adopt local taxes and establish and regulate norms for local travel, outdoor trade and advertisement, determine rules for management of property, land, forest and water resources of the local self-governance entity; plan land utilization; determine utility fees and services; set social-economic priorities, municipal programs and plans.

For Tamar, doctor, who preferred not to name her surname, Sakrebulo was mediator to the government, which is not elected by her.

A lawyer Aslan Chanidze said that low awareness of some voters might be caused by fraudulent elections that were held for many years. People's trust simply disappeared. "Sakrebulo was sort of body, which used to lobby interests of some political groups rather than interests of a city" - Chanidze added. As he said Sakrebulo was not interested itself in promoting its activities and make accessible information for citizens. When ruling party started promoting Sakrebulo and the opposition, on the contrary, starting blaming Sakrebulo in embezzlement, population started to realize that the Sakrebulo is an important body. Citizens should know that meetings of Sakrebulo are public and all the information adopted at a meeting is publicly accessible.

Nugzar Popkhadze, a journalist, saw two specific problems in having not enough informed population. He said that any kind of law should be publicly discussed and government should provide better publicity. "It is also partly caused because media was not well informed itself. Whole pre-election campaign was presented in a way as we were electing directly a mayor or governor of the region"- he added. Popkhadze also named lack of interest among population. They should have demand from media to provide better information.

"Is Sakrebulo authorized by a people when it is elected by those people, who do not know its rights and obligation? People should empower Sakrebulo with rights and make it eligible and not only a law should empower Sakrebulo," - said Popkhadze.

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