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Six Hung Local Councils Fail to Elect Chairs

As Municipal Councils (Sakrebulos), elected in October 2021, convened to hold their first sessions on December 3, six hung Sakrebulos of Batumi, Rustavi, Zugdidi, Tsalenjikha, Chkhorotsku and Senaki municipalities, where Georgian Dream came short of majority, failed to elect chairpersons. The development raises concerns over the looming political crisis that might impede municipal governance.

Political limbo in several councils persists, among others, as former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia, whose councilors emerged as king-makers, has vowed not to enter into coalitions with either GD or the United National Movement, the largest opposition party. Their earlier calls to GD and UNM to joint compromise on candidates have not yielded any results.

For the Chair to be elected, one should secure more than half of the total number of Sakrebulo members.

The situation is most complex in Batumi, the second-largest city, where the opposition – UNM, For Georgia and Lelo — have 17 seats, GD has 16, and one For Georgia-turned-independent is likely to cooperate with GD. The opposition’s lead in Batumi came into question after the death of the UNM Councilor-elect Nugzar Putkaradze – who the UNM has claimed was being pressured by the ruling GD to switch sides.

Batumi Deadlock and Possible Solutions

For Georgia decided not to attend the first session in Batumi, saying they leave UNM and GD to face each other and give “one more chance” to cooperate for a “better future of the city.”

But the cooperation between two arch-rivals is less likely to occur. Suggesting a way out of the crisis, UNM has called on President Salome Zurabishvili to use her constitutional powers and dismiss Sakrebulo as their actions endanger the exercise of the constitutional powers by public authorities.

Sakrebulo’s “constitutional authority can no longer be exercised in Batumi,” Giorgi Kirtadze, UNM’s mayoral candidate who narrowly lost the Batumi race in October, told Formula TV on December 3. “The balance is such that the Council’s work is unthinkable.”

“Not only electing a Chair but also holding a session will be impossible,” Kirtadze added, referring to the requirement that Sakrebulo session is considered constituted if attended by more than half of the total number of its members.

By-elections to replace late majoritarian Putkaradze, which could shift the Sakrebulo balance to either direction, is slated only months later in May, 2022.

UNM and Lelo have stressed the way ahead entails either political consensus, with GD Sakrebulo members also endorsing an opposition Councilor as a Chair, or snap municipal elections.

Lelo has suggested, both to the opposition and GD, that backing its sole member – Irakli Kupradze could be another way out of the gridlock. According to Kupradze, UNM has pledged support for his candidacy, but the position of Gakharia’s For Georgia and GD remains unknown. There is poor communication between opposition parties, as well as between opposition and the ruling party, at this stage, he said on December 3.

Other Municipalities 

In Rustavi, the fourth largest city, GD and For Georgia failed to have their candidates Mamuka Rekhviasvili and Nodar Sherozia, respectively, elected. With UNM’s Councilors walking out of the session before voting, none could secure the majority – Sherozia and Rekhviashvili received 3 and 16 votes, respectively.

The UNM members said they wanted to hold consultations with For Georgia before voting and expected them to also come out of the room for discussions, but they did not. UNM’s David Kirkitadze implied they sought from the opposition-led Sakrebulo to jointly implement their party program for Rustavi.

In Zugdidi Sakrebulo, For Georgia and UNM, the party that holds the majority of the opposition seats, voted to terminate the powers of the previous Council, but refused to nominate chair candidates or vote on them, subsequently walking out of sessions.

Martvili Sakrebulo, where Georgian Dream has no single majority, was the exception. There GD secured the office thanks to the backing of European Socialists, an opposition party of former Alliance of Patriots members, closely allied with the ruling party.

Mandate allocation in hung Sakrebulos

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