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The President signed several electoral amendments, but said that these will not ensure a better election code

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, January 11
The President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelahsvili, has signed majority-initiated amendments in the election code which were adopted by the legislative body in late December 2015, but said that they would not ensure a good election system for the country.

The amendments concerned two main issues. One was related to the redistricting of 73 single- mandate constituencies around the country, while the other was about the increase of the electoral threshold from 30% to 50% for the majoritarian Member of Parliament (MP) candidates.

Despite signing the changes, the President stressed that the amendments were just one part of the reform and they would not ensure a “commonly agreed election system” in the country.

“These amendments are just technical changes and do not reflect the common approach of political players acting in Georgia.”

The President said that it was also “very unclear” for him why the majority Georgian Dream (GD) coalition team postponed major electoral reform for 2020, when the other political parties already reached a consensus that the majoritarian election system should be scrapped in Georgia.

The Georgian legislative body consists of 150 lawmakers who are elected through a mixed system: 73 MPs out of the 150-seat legislative body are elected from 73 single-mandate constituencies and the rest 77 by a party-list, proportional system.

With the majoritarian election system, only one MP is to be elected per constituency. With the proportional representation system, several members of Parliament are to be elected per constituency. In the second situation, parties are assigned parliamentary seats proportionally to the number of votes they get.

The single-mandate constituencies were disproportionate in Georgia; several of them had thousands of voters, while others had just dozens.

Through the redistricting of the single-mandate constituencies, some of them were merged and others divided in order to reach the balance and equality of the constituencies.

For instance, Tbilisi - which enjoyed 10 single-mandate constituencies in previous years – will now have 22 constituencies through the amendments.

The western mountainous regions of Ambrolauri, Oni, Lentekhi and Tsageri will have only one majoritarian MP in Parliament after this year’s parliamentary race.

With regards to the threshold, it previously stood at 30%, but has now been stretched to 50%. According to the authors of the amendments, an MP elected with more than 50% of votes will enjoy greater higher public trust.

The opposition and the civil sector were demanding the annullment of the majoritarian election system, stating that Georgia should only have MPs elected based on proportional, party list voting.

A member of the United National Movement (UNM), Khatuna Gogorishvili, said that the amendments would cause “more mess” in the election system rather than improving it.

Zurab Abashidze, who represents the Free Democrats (FD) opposition party in the legislative body, has stated that the President would not veto the amendments, as such an act would result in complicated procedures to follow, but he said that the majoritarian system should be scrapped for the 2016 parliamentary race.

A GD representative, Gia Volski, said that despite the fact that Margvelashvili was the country’s President, he was not “an expert” in electoral issues and should have been more impartial when speaking about the proposed reforms.