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Amendments to Electoral Code Adopted: Parties Can Designate ‘Delegates,’ 40% Threshold in City Councils Abolished

On May 15, the Georgian Parliament adopted in the third reading by 81 votes to one the amendments to the Electoral Code of Georgia, allowing the political parties to designate their deputies as “delegates” of voters registered in an electoral district, and abolishing the 40 percent threshold for majoritarian candidates for local councils [sakrebulos]. The law now needs to be signed by President Salome Zurabishvili.

The amendments were introduced by members of the ruling Georgian Dream party and were criticized by the opposition and local civil society organizations.

The first part of the amendments, which allows parties to designate their MPs as “delegates” in electoral districts, was seen by critics as an attempt by the ruling Georgian Dream party to retain some elements of the majoritarian system. Meanwhile, the upcoming parliamentary elections will be the first to be held under a fully proportional system.

Majoritarian MPs have been traditionally seen as local feudal lords and the backbone of the ruling party in the regions, with the de facto power to control the local budget and help the ruling party maintain power.

The second part of the amendments, which abolishes the 40 percent threshold in local elections for the majoritarian candidates in city councils [sakrebulos], thus stipulating that the candidate who receives the highest number of real votes will be elected to the city councils, was also considered problematic. TI-Georgia noted that the change increases the risk of losing votes and misses the opportunity for supporters of opposition parties to support the unified opposition candidate in the second round. The watchdog also pointed to the increased risk of electing a person for whom more people voted against than for.

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