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Election Code amendments to be discussed at Bureau Session

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, November 30
The draft Election Code amendments package will be introduced at the Parliament Bureau Session on Monday. The changes, which will affect the composition of the Central Election Commission and the rules governing local elections and the Tbilisi Mayoral elections, were initiated by Parliament's Legal Committee. The MPs said a number of changes might be made to the draft before Parliament adopts the bill at the end of the year.

Discussion of the election code amendments moved to Parliament after the ruling party and the Alliance for Georgia, members of an inter-party group set up to address this issue, failed to agree on the Mayoral elections threshold on November 18. The National Movement refused to accept the Alliance's proposal to set a 50 % barrier, while all other parties agreed with the Government’s proposal that the candidate who finishes top of the Mayoral ballot should need only 30% of the vote to be declared elected. After the meeting of the inter-party working group where this divergence arose in National Democratic Institute (NDI) office, ruling party member Pavle Kublashvili said that there were “no resources” for continuing to work in the NDI format and proposed to carry on holding discussions in “individual formats”.

On November 24 the National Democratic Party proposed that working group members sign a document confirming the agreements already achieved. “After the signing of this document the Government will take responsibility for ensuring that these agreements are adopted in Parliament and given the force of law,” Bachuki Kardava of the NDP said. All parties except the Alliance for Georgia signed this document. Alliance members called on the ruling party to return to the NDI meetings. “The international community and Georgian society are waiting for normal elections. The Government should stop taking stiff positions,” Davit Gamkrelidze from the Alliance said.

One of the other leaders of the Alliance for Georgia, Zurab Abashidze, has said that a statement outlining their views on the Mayoral elections and the Election Code amendments will be made later this week. “We are not planning to make any kind of deals with the Government. The Government has missed the chance to change the election environment in this country,” Abashidze said.

President Saakashvili has hailed the political parties reaching agreement on election code amendments. “It is impossible to reach consensus on all issues,” the President’s Spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze said on November 26. Manjgaladze named the agreement on the direct election of the Tbilisi Mayor as the decision considered “most important” by the President. “The President thinks that setting a 30 percent barrier at the Mayoral elections and 4 percent [party vote] threshold for Tbilisi Sakrebulo (City Council) elections are also important, as this will give many political bodies the chance to participate in the elections and enter the Sakrebulo,” Manjgaladze said.

Manjgaladze also commented on the Alliance for Georgia’s refusal to sign the list of agreed items. “The President is aware of this and thinks that a compromise has been reached on many issues. He thinks that if any party expresses some discontent, it is simply opposing and nothing else,” the President’s Spokesperson said.

Political parties loyal to the ruling party have started working on creating an election environment to favour themselves, some analysts have said. “The opposition says that the Government has lost a chance to change the electoral environment, however we should see the other side of this issue also,” independent political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze has told The Messenger. “It is quite possible that by stopping the NDI-format negotiations the Government has gained the chance to create the electoral environment it would like to have.”