Georgian Parliament adopted late on June 28, with 86 votes to three, amendments to the Election Code, a reform envisaged in the April-19 EU-brokered deal signed by the ruling Georgian Dream and most of the opposition parties.
The amendments introduce new rules to the election system, pre-election campaigning and staffing the Election Administrations. As per the changes, the Central Election Commission Chair will be nominated by the President and approved by 2/3 of votes in the legislature. The number of CEC members increases from 12 to 17, of which eight will be “professional” and nine will be party-selected. The CEC Chair will have two deputies, one “professional” and one selected from the opposition-selected members.
The changed legislation also increases proportional representation in local elections and imposes a 40% threshold in the majoritarian part. For example in Tbilisi City Council (Sakrebulo), out of 50 members 40 will be elected through proportional lists, while 10 will be majoritarian – as opposed to the previous allocation of 25 – 25.
- Venice Commission, ODIHR Issue Second Joint Opinion on Draft Electoral Amendments
- Ruling Party, Opposition Agree on Draft Electoral Amendments
The amendments bill was initially tabled in March, by Georgian Dream’s Shalva Papuashvili and Citizens’ Levan Ioseliani, in accordance with a deal struck between the two parties. The draft was subsequently revised following the EU-mediated agreement of April.
Despite garnering some opposition support, the bill did not receive a unanimous vote as two opposition factions, the United National Movement-led Strength in Unity and Lelo-led Partnership for Georgia both abstained according to the Parliament’s press service. The development came despite the latter faction’s seven members all being signatories to the EU-brokered deal.
Lelo leader Mamuka Khazaradze said imposing a 40% majoritarian threshold was not discussed intensively after being introduced last minute as part of the amendments, highlighting his party’s refusal to deviate from the contents of the April 19 deal. He also reckoned the change “punishes” small parties.
The hotly contested October 31 parliamentary polls of last year in Georgia led to a boycott from major opposition parties, who claimed the elections were “rigged.” The political crisis, continuing all the way into April, was alleviated following mediation efforts from European Council President Charles Michel, who brokered an agreement between the ruling party and the opposition. According to the deal, signed on April 19, the parties agreed to conduct “ambitious electoral reform,” among others.