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Watchdog Calls for Revising Electoral Amendments Bill

Transparency International (TI) Georgia, a local watchdog, said on May 25 three provisions need to be reconsidered in the electoral changes put forward by the ruling Georgian Dream and opposition parties, despite largely welcoming the amendments for reflecting key points of the April 19 EU-brokered deal.

The watchdog criticized the bill for allowing the appointment of two Central Election Commission (CEC) Deputy Chairs. It said that electing a professional member as a Deputy alongside the opposition-nominated candidate “to some extent weakens” the opposition’s representation at a high level of the Commission, envisaged in the EU-brokered deal.

Also, TI Georgia argued as there are doubts about the impartiality of independent members at the Commission, appointing a professional Deputy may serve “to strengthen the ruling party’s positions in the CEC.”

Another issue the watchdog pointed out is the reduced timeframes between unsuccessful parliamentary votes on electing professional members, including the Chair of the CEC. According to the bill, 2/3 of votes are necessary to appoint a candidate in a first vote. If unsuccessful, another vote is to be held with the same threshold, which is reduced to 3/5, and then a simple majority in subsequent votes, if necessary. TI Georgia said that the period between the votes was set at four weeks, but was reduced to one as a one-off measure ahead of the 2021 local elections.

This could allow the ruling party to easily elect a candidate of its own liking “without the opposition’s consent,” and diminish the opportunity for a compromise, according to the watchdog.

TI Georgia also criticized a provision that would leave the Alliance of Patriots without representation at the CEC by allowing European Socialists to appoint a member instead. The latter party was founded by four former Patriots’ members, who took up legislative mandates after party leadership refused to. “It is unfair and inappropriate in principle to ‘punish’ one party for refusing to enter the Parliament,” the watchdog stressed, adding that the EU-brokered deal does not contain a similar provision either.

The ruling party lawmakers opposition MPs who signed the EU-brokered deal finished preparing the amendments on May 18. The changes got the greenlight at the Legal Affairs Committee on May 22, and now await endorsement in the first hearing of the Parliament.

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