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Local elections must be held by 1 June

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, December 3
Local elections will be held not later than June 1, 2010, according a draft Constitutional amendment formally introduced on December 1. The draft Constitutional amendment, which has been endorsed by the State Constitutional Commission, will be voted on in Parliament after a formal procedure of month-long public discussions.

The President has to declare the exact date of local elections not later than 45 days before that date. President Saakashvili offered in July to hold the local elections on May 30 next year instead of the originally planned autumn.

The same draft will reaffirm that the Tbilisi Mayor will be chosen through direct elections, instead of being elected by the City Council as at present. This rule will however only apply to the capital city, despite President Saakashvili pledging in his speech at the UN General Assembly in September that the mayors of the other four major cities of Georgia, Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Poti, would also be elected this way.

As the result of an agreement between the Government and some of the opposition parties, there will be a 30% threshold for being elected Tbilisi Mayor. Government members have already confirmed that the present Mayor of Tbilisi, Gigi Ugulava, will be the ruling party's candidacy for this post, but an official statement has not been made yet. What the opposition parties will do is still unclear. It has been announced that the Alliance for Georgia’s candidate for Tbilisi Mayor will be Irakli Alasania, but the Alliance has not in fact made a final decision because it wants the threshold of votes needed to be elected increased to at least 45% and also has some other disagreements with the new amendment. Alliance members state that they will participate in the Mayoral elections only if the electoral environment is changed.

Leader of the People's Party Koba Davitashvili and leader of the Conservative Party Zviad Dzidziguri have also declared their intentions to stand for Mayor. However both have said that they will first run in preliminary elections among the opposition parties – primaries – which will attempt to select a single opposition candidate. But it is not yet clear how many opposition parties will join them, meaning it is not known whether the primaries will be a meaningful tool for selecting a single candidate.

The Christian Democratic Movement (CDM), the leading Parliamentary minority party, also plans to nominate a candidate. The Georgian media has speculated that this will be Giorgi Chanturia, President of the Georgian International Oil Corporation (GIOC) during Shevardnadze’s Presidency. The CDM has declined to comment other than saying that the party would soon nominate its candidate. MP Gia Tortladze’s Democratic Party of Georgia has nominated Davit Iakobidze, who served as Georgia’s Finance Minister in the 90s under Shevardnadze. Iakobidze has kept a low profile and not been engaged in politics since quitting as Finance Minister in 1997.

Sozar Subari, from the Alliance for Georgia, has previously said that he will run for election to Tbilisi City Council and would lead it if his party gained a majority there. On December 2 Gigi Ugulava, the present Tbilisi Mayor, indicated that Rusudan Kervalishvili might be the ruling party's candidate for Leader of the Council if elected.

Under the amendments Tbilisi City Council will consist of 50 members, 25 of them elected in single member constituencies by first past the post and 25 proportionally. At present there are 37, 25 elected and 12 appointed.