Aleko Elisashvili and Levan Ioseliani, two Citizens’ MPs, said on January 29 to join the new Parliament in defiance of the opposition boycott, after signing a memorandum on electoral reform with the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party.
Georgian media published the text of the document, according to the which, the 2024 parliamentary election threshold will be set at no more than the current 5% and no less than 3%, while for the Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo) polls it will stand at 2.5%. The threshold will be fixed at no more than 3.2% for all other Sakrebulo elections.
Changing the parliamentary election threshold would require a constitutional majority vote (113 of 150MPs) in the Parliament, however, which so far seems less likely. The GD and six opposition lawmakers in the legislature defying the opposition boycott have 96 mandates in total.
The agreement also pledges to conduct Sakrebulo elections in the city-municipalities of Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi, and Poti with 80% of the Sakrebulo members elected proportionally, and the rest by the majoritarian system.
“In other municipalities, the ratio is determined according to local characteristics,” the reform deal reads, but proportional Sakrebulo members must outnumber majoritarians at least two to one.
The minimum number of MPs necessary to form a parliamentary faction will correspond with the election threshold, meaning that it will take four MPs to form a faction in the incumbent parliament.
As for election administration reform, according to the memorandum, the Central Election Commission (CEC) will be composed of 7 to 11 members “selected on a professional basis.” The Chairman and members will be nominated by the President from the long-list of candidates put forward by the special commission under the President, comprised of “independent NGOs and local observer organizations.” All parties that ran independently in parliamentary elections and have MPs in the legislature will appoint one non-voting member each to the CEC.
District Election Commissions will be composed of five members selected on a professional basis by the CEC, put forward by the special commission – under CEC – composed of “independent NGOs and local observation organizations.” All parties that ran independently in parliamentary elections and have MPs in the legislature will appoint one non-voting member each to the DEC.
Precinct Election Commissions (PEC), lowest-level election administrations, will be composed of members elected on a professional basis, namely with “six members plus one registrar per 300 voters on PEC.” The special commission under CEC will “oversee the selection process,” the document reads. All parties that ran independently in parliamentary polls and have MPs in the legislature will appoint one non-voting member each to the PECs.
Noteworthy, that the text envisages “making the use of” parliamentary mandates – not having the election threshold crossed – as precondition for the parties to appoint representatives in CEC, DECs and PECs. This effectively means, that if these changes pass, the major opposition parties that are now boycotting the current parliament will be left without representation in all levels of election administrations.
The agreement also promises to review norms on the use of administrative resources “in accordance with the OSCE / ODIHR recommendations,” with banning public servants, including teachers, from participating in political activities during working hours. It also envisages prohibiting gathering in a 100-meter range near polling stations or recording/registering voters in these premises on election day.
The memorandum text also refers to amending election dispute rules. A “special CEC committee” comprised of “independent experts,” “independent observer organizations and the Public Defender’s Office representatives” will monitor the dispute review process and issue recommendations to the CEC.
A number of new election-technologies will be implemented for future elections according to the document, including voting on the spot via electronic voting, finger-print voter registration and election day live streams from polling stations, among others.
A working group, staffed by opposition parties, CSOs, and international partners, co-chaired by a member each from the parliamentary majority and the opposition will be established to implement the proposed amendments, vowing to submit a bill to Parliament no later than March 1, and to pass them on May 1 the latest.