In February 2011 NIMD Georgia invited Bolivian experts on biometric voter registration to share their experiences with Georgian political parties. The Georgian ruling party and 16 opposition parties are negotiating a redraft of the election code which will regulate the 2012 elections. For this new election code the opposition parties are pleading for the introduction of biometric voter registration.
During the discussion on biometric voter registration it became clear that, in order to form a well informed decision, there was a need for experienced-based insight into the technological, administrative and financial aspects of such a project. Hence NIMD Georgia invited Antonio Costas (ex president of the National Electoral Court of Bolivia) and Raul Penaranda (Communication Manager of the Bolivian biometric voter registration project) to speak of how Bolivia coped with the biometric voter registration in 2009. Before the 2009 elections in Bolivia the National Electoral Court registered more than 5 million voters by collecting fingerprints, biometric photographs and electronic signatures within 75 days.
The Bolivian example proved to be relevant to the Georgian context. The aim of the visit was to increase the capacity of Georgian political parties to make informed judgements over the matter. Key information for them was the feasibility assessment of the project, a credible approximation of financial outlays and a fuller insight into the technological process. The visit demonstrated the utility of regional exchanges of experiences.
The Bolivian experts conducted meetings with the Georgian Civil Registry and a group of 8 opposition parties. Presentations were held for the election code working group and several civic, media and political organizations. The visit and the presentations were widely covered in the Georgian media.
As a result the ruling party, the United National Movement (UNM), presented its initial offer for the redraft which included biometric voter registry in the capital city of Tbilisi prior to the 2012 Parliamentary Elections. The UNM proposed to replicate the Bolivian experience after having analyzed their example.
The NIMD facilitated exchange visit created a more compromise seeking attitude of the opposition and the ruling party. It improved the general political climate within the election code working group. One of the tasks of the working group is to pave a way towards a more constructive dialogue, a much needed factor for Georgia's democratic development.