GEO

Inter-Faction Group of NGOs recommends a different electoral system for local self-governments

29 January, 2014

It is known that an Inter-Faction group working on electoral issues was established under the order of the Parliament Chairman from 26 December, 2013 with the purpose of drafting amendments to the Organic Law of Georgia, including the Election Code and other laws, and submitting them to Parliament.

The Inter-Faction group has already had its first working meeting in which NGOs alongside parties within and outside parliament had the opportunity to participate.

We believe that the major focus in the local elections should be revising the existing electoral system, and particularly establishing a system that would secure fair elections and ensure that the electorate’s will is proportionally reflected in the mandates. 

Importantly, the existing electoral system has long been a subject of criticism from non-governmental organizations and political parties for it falls short of ensuring proportional representation of the electorate’s will in the mandates, the number of missing votes is big, and one-person, one vote rule is not met.

Although the need to incorporate changes in the electoral system has long been a subject of our concern (we stipulated the need to discuss this issue in a timely manner as early as 2013 during an inter-faction group meeting), this issue was not discussed in the inter-factional group format in 2013 and was postponed for the future. Unfortunately, it was only recently, in January 2014, that the inter-faction group set up to work on election issues was able to meet and hold the first open discussion around this topic.

Our NGOs seek to achieve the adoption of an electoral system that would be able to solve the problems of the current system of elections and better reflect the will expressed by the Georgian citizens during elections. Therefore, the purpose underlying our present recommendations is to propose the inter-factional group an electoral system for the municipal elections that would respond to the current challenges.

We believe that if the government reaches the pertinent political decision and enacts amendments to the Electoral Code until the middle of February, it will be possible to achieve a significant improvement of the electoral system. However, if the solution of the issue is stalled, given that modifying the electoral system apart from trainings organized for the elections administration as well as other technical and administrative issues also requires conducting a large-scale public awareness campaign, the implementation of fundamental changes becomes questionable. 

When selecting an electoral system, first and foremost, set the priorities which the new electoral system should incorporate, such as: 

  • pro rata principle – proportional representation of votes in the mandates;
  • ensuring that the so-called "missing votes" are of minimum amount;
  • encouraging the representation of small parties and independent candidates;
  • representation of different social groups ( minorities) and gender equality;
  • enhancing public trust in the elections;
  • focusing on the candidates;
  • reduced likelihood of the need for a second round;
  • simplicity.

Taking account of the criteria listed above, we advise the inter-faction group to discuss the following electoral systems:

  • for local councils (Sakrebulos) elections: a) as regards proportional elections - proportional system based on lists (open list); as regards majority elections – a block voting in multi-mandate districts, and alternate voting in single-mandate districts, and b) a system of mixed membership;
  • for governor (mayor) elections - alternative voting system;

We support the 50 % threshold in the governor (mayor) elections, something that is covered by the electoral system suggested by us. We believe that the given barrier ensures that the will of the majority of voters is reflected and that the elected candidate enjoys a high degree of legitimacy.

We hope that the inter-faction group will review the recommendations in a timely manner and rely on the above principles as well as the interests of the Georgian citizenry when taking decisions on the adjustment of the electoral system; this will be an important step forward on our county’s path to democracy.

Detailed information on the advantages of the electoral systems proposed by our organizations can be found at the link.

elections