Voters in Georgia will elect 64 new municipal councils in May 30 local elections for a four-year term.
The major focus of the local elections is made on contest in the capital city, Tbilisi, which will directly elect its mayor for the first time.
Outcome of mayoral contest, as well as of party contest for Tbilisi Sakrebulo (City Council), in the capital city, where one-third of the country’s voters are concentrated, is believed to largely determine the country’s political landscape in run up to presidential elections in 2013, when Mikheil Saakashvili’s second and final term in office expires.
Municipal Councils (Sakrebulo)
Formally there are 69 local municipal councils (Sakrebulo), but authority of five of them will be automatically prolonged without elections; these are those five councils, which before the August, 2008 were located in the Georgian-controlled areas of breakaway Abkhazia (in Kodori gorge) and South Ossetia (Eredvi, Tigvi, Kurta and Akhalgori).
All the Councils are composed through both majoritarian and party-list, proportional system.
The seats allocated under the proportional system are distributed to the parties and election blocs, which clear a 5% threshold in provincial regions.
Lower threshold of 4% is set for Tbilisi City Council proportional contest.
Number of seats in majority of Councils distributed through proportional system is 10.
Exception is the capital city, where total of 25 proportional seats are for grab and three other major cities – Kutaisi, Batumi and Rustavi, where 15 seats in each are contested.
There are total of 670 proportional seats for grab in all 64 Councils.
Number of majoritarian seats varies in various municipal councils, depending on their size.
The largest is Tbilisi, where 25 majoritarian seats are for grab (there is total of 50 seats in the Tbilisi City Council).
In Tbilisi total of 228 majoritarian candidates have been nominated by about dozen of political parties and election blocs. Number of contenders in each of 25 single-mandate constituencies varies from at least 7 to 11.
Councils of three other major cities – Kutaisi, Rustavi and Batumi – have 10 majoritarian seats each and there are five majoritarian seats in Poti.
There are total of 1,025 majoritarian seats for grab in all 64 Councils.
A candidate with more votes than others will be declared an outright winner with no threshold set.
Tbilisi is the only city in Georgia where mayor is elected through direct vote.
Mayors of four other major cities – Kutaisi, Rustavi, Batumi and Poti – are elected by the local municipal Councils. The same rule was applied for Tbilisi as well, but it was changed as a result of amendments to the election code in December, 2009.
In other provincial municipalities, a head of district (Gamgebeli as it is called in Georgian) is appointed through the approval of local Councils.
There are nine candidates running for the Tbilisi mayoral office:
- Gigi Ugulava, an incumbent Tbilisi mayor, nominated by the ruling party;
- Irakli Alasania, leader of Alliance for Georgia;
- Giorgi Chanturia, nominated by Christian-Democratic Movement;
- Gogi Topadze, leader of Industry Will Save Georgia (Industrialists);
- Zviad Dzidziguri, leader of Conservative Party, nominated by a coalition, which also includes Party of People and ex-PM Zurab Nogaideli’s Movement for Fair Georgia;
- Davit Iakobidze, nominated by Democratic Party of Georgia;
- Nika Ivanishvili, head nominated by his newly established party Popular Democrats;
- Tamaz Vashadze, nominated by Solidarity party;
- Giorgi Lagidze, leader of Future Georgia party.
A candidate, who receives more votes than others, but no less than 30% will be declared winner. If no one clears the 30% threshold, a run off will take place within a month between the two candidates who garner the highest number of votes.
Central Election Commission (CEC) is the main body administering elections.
CEC is composed of 13 members, including its chairman Zurab Kharatishvili, who was elected on the post by the Parliament in January, 2010.
Seven members of CEC are from following political parties: ruling National Movement party; Labor Party (the party boycotts the local elections); Conservative Party; Industrialists; Republican Party (part of Alliance for Georgia); On Our Own party and Christian-Democratic Movement – these two latter parties have formed an election bloc to run in the elections on a joint ticket.
Five remaining CEC members were nominated by the President and appointed by the Parliament.
There are 73 District Election Commissions (DEC) – middle-level election administrations.
There are over 3,600 Precinct Election Commissions (PEC), which are the lowest level of election administrations, but of crucial importance as they are in charge of administering polling stations and are first bodies to count votes.
Like CEC, each PEC and DEC has 13 members and distribution of seats in PECs and DECs among the political parties is similar to the one in CEC.