GYLA: GD-Proposed Election Code Changes Lower Trust in Election Administration

The ruling party’s legislative proposal to lower the voting threshold for decision-making in the Central Election Commission (CEC) threatens the integrity and confidence in the electoral process, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) warned on May 22. 

The Georgian Dream-proposed amendments change the current decision-making system which requires the support of two-thirds of CEC members for certain Commission decisions. Instead, the ruling party proposes that should the Commission fail to make a decision with this rule, the decision can be revoted in the same meeting and adopted with a simple majority of the Commission members. 

According to the watchdog, the proposed amendments have been introduced without “justification of necessity” and with disregard of the recommendations of international organizations. The bill also follows other recent changes that led to worsened election legislation and comes shortly before the October parliamentary elections, according to GYLA assessment. 

“The proposed amendment de-facto rules out opposition involvement in the decision-making process and further intensifies the doubt about the unconscientious influence of the ruling party in the election administration,” the statement reads. 

GYLA stresses that this change undermines the “balanced representation” established by the EU-brokered April 19 agreement. According to the watchdog, the agreement led to an increase in the number of CEC members from 12 to 17 to increase opposition parties’ participation.

Currently, out of 17 CEC members, eight “professional” members, including the CEC Chair, are elected by the Parliament, while the remaining nine are appointed by the political parties. The watchdog says that should the proposed amendments be adopted, the votes of “eight professional members and the representative of the ruling party will be enough” to make a decision.

According to the statement, “the change further lowers the trust of the public and opposition political parties towards the election administration.”

GYLA calls on Georgian Dream to take into account the recommendations of international organizations and civil society about the “need for a comprehensive, systemic review of the electoral law well in advance of the next elections within an inclusive consultation process,” not amidst the “ongoing acute political polarization and protest rallies.” 

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