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NGOs quit inter-faction group

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, February 6
Three NGOs have left the inter-faction group as a sign of protest. Representatives of the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) and Transparency International Georgia (TI) stress that the ruling team has not taken significant recommendations into account and left an unfair election system in force.

“Changes that are suggested by the Georgian Dream do not ensure a fair system for the upcoming self-government elections,” the organizations stated.

The organizations explained that the current election system for city councils discourage proportional distribution of votes into mandates. The organizations claim that through the system, a winner might not be supported by the majority of voters. The NGOs also stress that the different sized election districts have equal mandates, and that, according to them, is unfair.

“The current system affords privileges to the ruling administration,” the NGOs state.

The NGOs stress that they had provided several recommendations to the government that were manageable until the elections - for instance, a 50% threshold for mayors and governors and the creation of multi-mandate election districts. The NGOs also said that the norm, which allowed an initiative group to represent independent candidates for mayor and governor’s positions, will be abolished.

“This is a violation of international standards,” the NGOs state. Unfortunately, the inter-faction group had only formal importance and our remarks are being ignored,” the statement reads.

Head of the GYLA Kakha Kozhoridze reminded the current government members that until they entered office, they had the same remarks towards the election system as the NGOs have now.

“It is regrettable that attitudes changes after taking office,” Kozhoridze stated.

Member of the parliamentary opposition United National Movement, Akaki Bobokhidze states the same and “accuses” government members in forgetting the demands they had while being in opposition.

“Now they state the same for what they were criticizing us for,” Bobokhidze says.

Member of the non-parliamentary minority Christian Democrats, Levan Vepkhvadze, states that the parliament chair should be involved in the process, as the members of the coalition support an unhealthy system created by the previous government.

Member of the parliamentary majority, Gia Zhorzholiani, strongly denies the accusations, stating that the coalition has done much to change the system. He stated that under the new government mayors and governors will be directly elected - mayors with 40% and governors with 33%. He admits that there was no barrier until now. Zhorzholiani states that the government will continue negotiations with the interested sides.

“Some recommendations might be taken into account, some might not…this is a normal process,” Zhorzholiani states. Consultations will continue until February 10. Majority and minority members, non-parliamentary opposition members and NGOs are taking part in the inter-faction group activities.