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Amendments to electoral code passed at the first reading include gender quotas, party funding

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, July 3
At the extraordinary session held on July 1st, the Parliament of Georgia adopted the amendments to the Electoral Code at the first reading. The changes were initiated by the Speaker of the Parliament, Archil Talakvadze, and other members of the Georgian Dream - Irakli Kobakhidze, Anri Okhanashvili and Davit Matikashvili.

Prior to the vote, Archil Talakvadze said at the bureau meeting that the amendments to the Electoral Code included ‘tangible and very progressive’ changes, including campaigning, party funding, media and advertising time, and other important topics.

Ruling party MPs say that the amendments they have proposed include “most of the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations.”

According to the amendments, non-partisan members of lower-level election commissions will be elected with the support of the majority of non-partisan members of the relevant district election commissions which will ensure that the process is conducted impartially and free from party interests.

Family members will not be employed in the same precinct election commission to prevent conflicts of interests and the Individuals appointed by a party to precinct election commissions during previous elections will not be able to become non-partisan members of the commissions during the 2020 elections.

One party/bloc will not be able to use its commercial time for the interests of other political parties or blocs. Unproved income will be considered an illegal contribution.

As for campaigns, giving more than the specified free or paid TV time for parties or blocs will be considered an illegal contribution. Posting of campaign materials within 25 meters from the polling station will be banned. Public school teachers, members of religious organisations and the bar association will be banned from election campaigning. Ministries and other state bodies will be banned from placing commercials on implemented projects two months before election day.

Regarding the quotas, before the 2028 parliamentary elections, parties and election blocs must present party lists in which one-fourth of candidates will be a woman. Otherwise the party will not be registered. For the 2028 parliamentary elections themselves, one-third of party lists must consist of women, while this proposition will increase for the 2032 race.

According to the bill, the funding of the parties will change accordingly: If a party receives 50,000 votes in the elections (three per cent of the total vote) the party will receive GEL15 for a single vote in state funding – a total of GEL750,000. For each vote after 50,000 votes, the party will receive GEL5. Parties with more gender-balanced election lists will receive additional state funding.

Before the voting, the amendments to the Electoral Code were responded to by the non-governmental organization Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) and it was clarified that the bill needs to be improved to comply with OSCE/ODIHR recommendations.

The organization says that the distance for restricting the placement of agitation material should be increased from 25 to 100 meters and the presence of any ‘unauthorized’ person within the same radius should be prohibited.

GYLA believes that the concept of electoral agitation should be specified. It should also be noted that agitation involves the dissemination of political appeals through the personal page of the social network and attendance at pre-election events.

The organization also draws attention to the ‘period of silence’, according to which, agitation is prohibited at polling stations on election day (violation is punishable by GEL2,000) and states that it should be extended to the day before the election.