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Election Code amendments presented to Parliament

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, December 4
Discussions of the bill of amendments to the Election Code agreed between the Government and the opposition began in Parliament on December 3. Before its consideration by Parliament, it was discussed at a meeting of the Committee on Legal Issues attended by opposition members.

Under the bill the rules and procedures for staffing the CEC and conducting the Tbilisi Mayoral and Tbilisi City Council elections will be changed, but elsewhere the system will remain as it is. The amendments Parliament will discuss this week include setting a 30% threshold for being elected the Tbilisi Mayor, changing the composition of Tbilisi City Council; changing the way the Central Election Commission Chairman is appointed and altering the procedure for filing complaints about electoral violations.

Under the bill the City Council will have 50 members, 25 elected through a proportional party list system and the other 25 through first past the post contests in single member constituencies. Proportional seats will be distributed among the parties which clear a 4% threshold and in the single member constituencies the candidate receiving the most votes, regardless of what percentage of the poll they achieve, will be declared the winner.

The President will nominate three candidates for the post of Chairman of the Central Election Commission under the new bill but opposition members will choose which is given the post. If none of the three candidates receive a majority of the votes of opposition CEC members it will be up to Parliament to select one of the three candidates. Opposition members will also have the right to appoint precinct election commission secretaries. The Alliance for Georgia had offered a system under which half of the precinct commissions would have been chaired by ruling party representatives and the rest by opposition nominees, but this initiative was rejected.

Comments were made by both opposition members and Government representatives prior to the proposals being discussed. Levan Vephkhvadze from the Christian Democrats stated that the Government and opposition should agree how election lists are formed. "The opposition have presented two plans, the first being that a special group of 8 members from different political parties will control the voter registration process and the second that this will be done by election districts, Vephkhvadze said.

Pavle Kublashvili from the Government side agreed that producing accurate voter lists is a very important issue and the Government and opposition will organise voter registration jointly. "It is very important that all the parties taking part in the local elections trust the voter lists. We may support the initiative to create a special monitoring group and it could be financed through the state budget by as much as 100,000GEL, Kublashvili suggested.

The opposition and Government have managed to agree on some issues, for example that there will be 7 members of the Central Election Commission instead of 5. They also agreed that if any member of the Commission disagrees with his colleagues on some issue they will state this when signing the tally of results. Previously they would write a private report. The vote tallies will now be given to both party representatives and non-governmental organisations, who do not receive it at present.

Georgian Trope is refusing to participate in the Parliamentary discussion of this bill. Its representative Giorgi Basharuli told a press conference on November 3 that the Government has broken the agreement achieved at the negotiations. "The Government is presenting things to Parliament, which were not agreed, such as the number of the Government representatives exceeding opposition ones at all levels of electoral administration, although these numbers should be equal. The Government is also trying to legitimise a Deputy standing in the local elections without leaving Parliament, which is unacceptable for us. Therefore we, the Georgian Troupe, will not collaborate with the Government on this, Basharuli said.