NGO statement on the ruling coalition's position with regard to the reform of the electoral system
On 5 June the Georgian Dream coalition announced that the 2016 parliamentary elections will again be conducted based on the current mixed electoral system, with several changes to be implemented. These changes include setting up a 50% threshold for the deputies elected through the majority voting system and adjusted boundaries for the single mandate (majoritarian) electoral districts to safeguard the principle of equality of votes and abide by the Constitutional Court ruling delivered this year. As it pertains to the subsequent reforming of the electoral system, the government stated that by the 2020 parliamentary elections the majority voting system will be abolished and replaced by the proportional system. The Georgian Dream coalition brought the shortage of time remaining before the elections as an argument for postponing the latter change.
Our opinion is that the proposed changes only partially address the problems existing within the current electoral system and cannot secure a competitive and equal electoral environment in Georgia in a single package. First and foremost, it will be difficult to mechanically redistrict single-mandate electoral constituencies without creating new and additional challenges to the equal representation. At the same time, as evidenced during the 2014 local elections, the electoral processes in the country cannot be improved by merely setting up the 50% threshold. What is needed instead are integrated approaches that will include the threshold issue as a component.
Furthermore, we believe the government's argument that the shortage of time remaining before the elections inhibits a practical and substantial reformation of the electoral system, is not convincing at all. We are about 1.5 years away from the next parliamentary elections. Provided there is a political will, there is ample time to conduct the parliamentary elections in 2016 based solely on the proportional system, including the enactment of the necessary constitutional amendments.
We believe that to improve the voting system and create a free and fair electoral environment the authorities must take into account the joint stance of the leading non-governmental organizations and the political spectrum and conduct the 2016 parliamentary elections based on the proportional electoral system. The modern history of Georgia has never known such a broad consensus between the political and civil societies over the electoral system; therefore, it is unacceptable for the authorities to disregard this fact.
Georgian Young Lawyers' Association
International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED)
Transparency International Georgia
Civil Development Agency (CiDA)
Open Society Georgia Foundation