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Election reform in demand

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, October 9
Elections are not scheduled in Georgia before 2016. The issue of snap elections has already faded as well. Instead, non-parliamentary opposition parties are demanding election reform. According to them, the current electoral system is unfair and requires significant modification. However, they are not unanimous on how the gaps might be filled.

Generally, the election code in Georgia was amended in haste before the elections. Opposition parties demanded changes and the majority tailored the amendments to its own interests. Currently, the opposition parties are trying to break this ugly practice and are asking for amendments long before election day.

Before the opposition parties manage to agree on certain amendments, local NGOs have already made particular suggestions. Meanwhile, PACE has asked the government to launch systemic changes in the election code for the 2016 parliamentary elections.

Six NGOs: Transparency International Georgia, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, ISFED, the Civil and Democratic Development Centre, the movement Multinational Georgia and the Human Rights Studying and Monitoring Centre stress that the current government should launch the election reform in a timely manner, as there is not much time left before the elections.

The NGOs admit that there are many aspects of the reform that civil society sector, political parties and other stakeholders have long been calling for.

“However, first and foremost are: regulations for staffing election administrations, voter lists and more. The new regulations should ensure the equality of votes, realization of the proportion between votes and mandates, maximum reduction of the so-called lost votes, increase in female representation, and the proportionate representation of minorities,” the NGOs statement reads.

The NGOs state that the Inter-Factional Task Force on election issues set up in the Parliament of Georgia was twice presented with a number of recommendations about foregoing issues and more. Even though the IFTF discussed some of the issues, no substantial changes were made, citing the lack of time remaining until the elections and difficulty making comprehensive changes as the reason.

The organizations suggest that in order to avoid repetition of past practices, the Georgian government should express their political will for election reform and set-up an election task force with the involvement of all interested stakeholders for spearheading fundamental election reform. The task force should enjoy a high level of political trust, to the extent that its decisions are treated with consideration by the authorities.

Georgian parliament is composed of 150 MPs, 77 among them are chosen through the proportional system, while the other 73 are majoritarian deputies. Critics believe that the current system fails to ensure the fair distribution of votes into mandates. There has been speculation of changing the current system by using a proportional-regional system, which would mean introducing multi-mandate constituencies. The bigger the constituency is, the more mandates are distributed. However, the change has never been supported by any government in Georgia.

The current government’s position still remains unclear. As a rule, single-mandate constituencies were more beneficial for the ruling power and neither Shevardnadze’s government nor Saakashvili’s wished to give up this comfortable lever.