GEO

Another ordinance of the CEC Found to be inconsistent with the law

08 September, 2016

 

On August 24, the Central Election Commission of Georgia (CEC) adopted an ordinance defining a new rule of number assignment to participants of the elections. As the ordinance states, an election subject may use the number it was awarded for the previous local elections. Two parties, the New Rights and the Alliance of Patriots have already taken use of the new rule to receive election numbers without casting lots. Such regulation of the matter differs from the procedure envisaged by the law and, in our opinion, constitutes an ultimate violation of the Election Code.     

To better clarify the issue, we hereby present a brief situational overview. On October 8 of the current year, apart from the regular parliamentary elections, by-elections of local governor/Mayor and municipality/city council will take place in six and seven districts respectively. Running of three different elections the same day leads to certain legislative ambiguity.

We will separately go through the procedures envisaged by the Election Code to regulate assignment of numbers to participants in the parliamentary and the local self-government elections.  

Determination of a number of an election subject at the parliamentary elections

A number of an election subject shall be determined no earlier than 36 days, but no later than on the 30th day, before the polling day. In case of the upcoming elections, an order on number assignment will be issued no earlier than September 8.

  • A political union that received most of the votes in the previous party list elections of the Parliament has the preferential right to choose the number first (retains the number assigned to it at the previous parliamentary elections or takes number one). 
  • The same rule applies to political unions ranked the second and the third by their results in the previous party list parliamentary elections.
  • If a number was assigned to the election bloc getting the first, second or third place at the latest party list elections of the Parliament, the political party topping the list of the bloc shall have the right to use the assigned number;  
  • Numbers of other election subjects are to be determined by casting lots.

Determination of a number of an election subject during the local self-government elections

  • A party/election bloc is entitled to request participation in the elections under the same number as it was assigned in the previous parliamentary elections; to this end, it should submit an application to the CEC no later than on the 40th day before the polling day.
  • Numbers of other election subjects are to be determined by casting lots.

The Election Code does not regulate assignment of numbers for by-elections/snap elections of the self-governing bodies. At the previous by-elections, the CEC used the ordinance1 of 17 April 2015 to regulate procedure of number assignment; congruent to the given ordinance, until the following parliamentary elections, participants of other elections would use the numbers they were assigned at the local self-government elections of 15 June 2014.     

The ordinance adopted on August 24

Apart from other issues, the new ordinance adopted by the CEC regulates the following areas overlooked by the Election Code: 

  1. A political subject participating in the Parliamentary as well as local by-elections/snap elections of October 8, is entitled to use the same number in all three elections. The given clause is welcome, as it would have been unreasonable for a subject to have different numbers for different elections held on the same day.
  2. Except of the three parties obtaining most of the votes in the previous parliamentary elections2, all parties get numbers for parliamentary elections by casting lots or retain the ones they were assigned for the previous local self-government elections.
  3. If a party did not participate in the last local self-government elections, or was affiliated with other election bloc and therefore is not entitled by the Code to use the number of the bloc (only the first number of the bloc can use the number), it will run for all three elections under the number identified through casting lots.
  4. If a political party wishes to use the number it was assigned at the last local self-government elections, it should submit a written application to the CEC  no earlier than 47 days, but no later than on the 36th day before the polling day (between August 22 and September 2). In case of applying, the CEC shall issue an order on number assignment no earlier than 36 days (September 2) before the Election Day.
  5. Election subjects (except of the three subjects with the best results) are not allowed to use assigned numbers before issuance of the respective order.

Shortcomings of the ordinance

According to the ordinance, assignment of numbers for October 8 parliamentary elections is contingent upon participation in the previous local elections, whereas such condition is not set out by the Election Code. Except of the three parties having the best results in the parliamentary elections, all other participants are to be assigned numbers by casting lots.

The ordinance puts participants of the previous local elections at an advantage, as they know their election numbers as early as August 24, whereas all other participants will learn them on September 8 in the best case scenario. The Election Code does not envisage such unequal treatment of participants3.  

The ordinance states that the parties that ran for the local self-government elections and were awarded numbers without casting lots, are entitled to use numbers only after issuance of a respective order by the CEC.  Thus, even though the parties may already know their election numbers, they cannot use them before issuance of an order. However, it remains unclear what sanctions may apply for breach of the given requirement.  

Interestingly enough, it is already the second case over the last week that the CEC adopts an ordinance inconsistent with the Georgian legislation. The first case pertained to preservation of the election registration for 9 political unions.   

Recommendation

We believe that the Central Election Commission should amend the adopted ordinance or alternatively, pass a new one, which will be in full compliance with the Election Code. With the exception of the political parties holding the top three places in the previous party list parliamentary elections, all other participants should be awarded election numbers through one-time casting of lots. An ordinance of the CEC should authorize a political union/election subject to use the number assigned through casting at the next parliamentary elections as well as by-elections of the local self-governing bodies, both of them scheduled on October 8.

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1 During the special elections of Gardabani Gamgebeli of 28 January 2016, the CEC applied the ordinance of 24 December 2015 to determine numbers of the election subjects. 

2 The given parties include the United National Movement, the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia, the Conservative Party.

Except political parties having the best results in the previous parliamentary elections, which may not be regarded as a discriminatory approach, as granting of certain benefits to the parties enjoying strong public support serves legitimate purposes. 

Author: TI Georgia
elections, Gvote