The New Old Majoritarian System - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

The New Old Majoritarian System

12 January, 2010

On January 28, 2008, opposition presidential candidates and opposition political parties released a joint memorandum addressed to Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia Nino Burjanadze and world governments and international organizations. The memorandum included seventeen points, which the opposition considered essential for overcoming the political turmoil in the country. One of the seventeen points included in that memorandum called for the conversion of the existing majoritarian electoral system (winner takes all) into a regional multi-mandate system that would distribute seats proportionally. The ruling party, a.k.a. the United National Movement, released a list of draft proposals on February 14, addressing all seventeen of the opposition’s demands. The document started with the phrase: “The proposed draft represents a compromise made by the authorities regarding all the key issues raised by the opposition political parties.” Regarding the reform of the electoral system, the United National Movement’s proposal read: “In case of reaching a consensus between the political forces, the majoritarian election system will be replaced by the regional proportional system, as recommended by the OSCE experts. With this purpose, the draft constitutional amendments have already been initiated and in case of a consensus, the relevant amendments will be implemented by the end of March.” Despite the ruling party’s concession on this point, the opposition continued to protest and call for the government to address the other points in the memorandum. Meanwhile, on March 4, parliament adopted on its first hearing a constitutional amendment to distribute parliament’s 150 seats as 75 majoritarian and 75 party list. The opposition did not participate in the vote. On March 21, parliament finalized the amendment to the Unified Election Code that redefined the majoritarian system. It called for one majoritarian candidate to be elected from each of the 75 single mandate constituencies (the system which had existed in Georgia since independence). The majoritarian candidate to receive the greatest number of votes in the constituency and over 30% would win. The ruling party explained the deviation from its memorandum by saying that it did not have enough votes to change the constitution and needed either the participation of opposition MPs or majoritarian MPs. Because the opposition was boycotting the process, the ruling party had to appease the majoritarian MPs, who preferred the single mandate system, through which they have been elected. These same majoritarians, however, had supported a change from the single mandate system in 2005 to a multi-mandate winner takes all system.