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Political parties agree on 30 percent threshold for Mayoral elections

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, November 16
The group of political parties working on the election code has agreed to set a 30% percent threshold for electing the Tbilisi Mayor. The opposition parties’ initial demand was for a 50 percent barrier, while the Government wanted no threshold at all. After discussions at the National Democratic Institute office on Thursday, the ruling and opposition parties agreed on the compromise of 30 percent. This means that to win an election a candidate must not simply gain more votes than the other candidates but at least 30% of the votes cast.

The only political party which opposed the decision was the Alliance for Georgia. Alliance members claimed that this system was not appropriate for choosing the Tbilisi Mayor. They demanded setting a 50%+1 vote threshold for Mayoral elections due to be held on May 30, 2010.

“A 30% barrier means gaining a majority with a minority of votes, which is unacceptable for us,” Mamuka Katsitadze from the Alliance for Georgia said. “We hope that the Government will increase the threshold later,” he added. The Parliamentary opposition Christian Democrats said that they agreed with the 30 % barrier as a compromise in return for the Government’s agreement that the City Council elections would be held on the basis of 50% simple majority and 50% proportional party list members.

Having a low threshold, or none at all, in the Mayoral elections would be beneficial for the opposition parties, ruling party officials suggest. “The opposition says it is strong in Tbilisi. We have offered them a good chance of being elected, but if they are afraid, we will think of something else to help them,” Parliament Vice-Speaker Mikehil Machavariani said.

It has also been announced that Central Election Commission head Levan Tarkhnishvili will be replaced with someone agreed by the opposition. Ruling party officials noted that criticism of Tarkhnishvili was “groundless,” “however the upcoming Mayoral elections will be held with a new CEC Chairman,” National Movement MP Pavle Kublashvili said, adding that the Government will offer three candidates to the opposition and they will choose their favoured one.

President Mikheil Saakashvili hailed the agreement between the opposition and the ruling party, saying that he is “surprised”. “The dialogue going on between the Government and the opposition should be welcomed,” he said. “Sometimes it is possible to reach agreement and I am surprised by the compromises that we have been able to reach,” he stated. “The parties have agreed on principal issues in the Election Code. It is impossible to have a code which completely satisfies everyone, and neither the Government nor other political parties have any pretensions about this,” he said.

Political analysts say that agreement on the election code was achieved as a result of the influence of the international community. According to independent political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze international partners have pointed out that the place for political dialogue is Parliament and Sakrebulos (local councils) and not the street.