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President announces alleged time for local elections

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, June 29
Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili made a special statement on June 27 and announced that local elections would be held at the end of the third week of October this year.

Margvelashvili did not specify an exact date but stated that he would announce this after negotiations with the Government in August.

The President has the right to announce the date 60 days before the elections.

Through the decision, Margvelashvili did not take the opposition’s appeal into account to fix the election day as soon as possible, in order to prevent the government from merging several municipalities and self-governing cities.

The opposition believes that such a merger is against the state's decentralization.

They had appealed to the President to hinder the process through naming the date for the local elections.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili stated that the merging of several municipalities (which means seven cities may lose the status of a self-governing city) would not result in reduced budgets for the regions or a step backwards for decentralization.

For now, there are 79 municipalities in Georgia: 12 self-governing cities and 67 self-governing communities among them.

In 2014, the Georgian leadership increased the number of self-governing cities from 5 to 12.

If a Government-initiated change comes into play, for this year’s local elections there may again be five self-governing cities with their own mayors, namely Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Poti.

A number of NGOs and the opposition state the changes are being made to save money and the concern of the current authorities as they may lose elections in the cities this year.

In the previous local elections held in July 2014, for the first time in Georgia’s history, 71 local self-government bodies (Sakrebulos) and 2,088 members of the Sakrebulos, 12 city Mayors and 59 heads of local municipalities (Gamgebelis) were directly elected by voters.