Opinions on the government proposals for improving the Election Environment
On June 27, 2011, five political parties signed the agreement proposed by the governing party. The document describes a proposal for improving election legislation.On June 27, 2011, five political parties signed the agreement proposed by the governing party. The document describes a proposal for improving election legislation. We, “Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association”, “Transparency International - Georgia” and “International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy” – all organizations actively observing ongoing negotiations regarding the development of the Georgian election environment – welcome advances in the direction of agreement, yet we should emphasize that the current agreement, supported by certain opposition parties, cannot fully guarantee fair and free elections. Like our previous statements, we highlight that problematic issues of election legislation should be considered and addressed comprehensively, insofar as their partial regulation will not ensure the creation of a fair and competitive election environment in the country. Imposition of preliminary limitations as though no other issue will be considered except those already submitted is impermissible, since the document does not fully address certain major issues such as the formulation of election administrations, limitations on use of administrative resources, improvement of the political parties’ funding system, creation of financial monitoring mechanisms and so on. Furthermore, proposed regulations do not guarantee eradication of the deficiencies in election legislation. Hereby we submit our opinions on each proposal:
- The issue of increasing number of Members of Parliament up to 190 MPs by the governing party (83 MPs elected through a majoritarian system and 107 MPs elected on the basis of a party-proportional system) should be specified at a legislative level. It should be implemented only after a referendum, since according to Paragraph 4 Article 28 of the Organic Law of Georgia on Referendum “only another referendum can invalidate or alter the decision adopted as the result of a referendum” otherwise; any introduced amendment to the constitution will be treated as violation of the Organic Law of Georgia.It is also strange why the parties to the agreement make promises on issues that should be solved explicitly at the referendum by the Georgian population.
- We should emphasize that the submitted proposals do not resolve the problem related to the ratio of votes received by political parties in an election to the number of acquired seats in the Parliament. Furthermore, the initiative does not safeguard the principle of equality of the value of each elector’s vote according to administrative precincts. Pursuant to international standards, the maximalum deviation in number of electors among election districts should not exceed 15-20%.
- Specification of voters’ lists is a vital issue for holding fair elections. We welcome the idea of setting up a working group composed of government, opposition and NGO representatives that, compared to the past elections, will initiate operation far earlier before the elections. Furthermore, we see the necessity of a separate body that will coordinate the activities of the commission, will define the methodology of its activity, and other issues. However, we believe that one agency should be designated to be in charge of making voters’ lists, and that compatibility between databases used in the formation of voters’ lists should be ensured.
- We believe that establishment of the Interagency Coordination Council on the basis of law is not a sufficient mechanism for preventing the use of administrative resources in elections. As already stated repeatedly, for the past three elections the interagency working group was unsuccessful in investigating election-related violations timely and ensuring due punishment of violators. Therefore we believe that apart from intensifying monitoring it is also necessary to investigate election violations in a speedy manner and inform the public proactively on the outcomes of investigation.
- Though we appreciate extending the term for dispute consideration from two to four days, the amendment is nevertheless insufficient for resolving problems relating to election disputes. Frequently, legislative norms are unclear and open to various interpretations.
- It is essential to create a mechanism for effective monitoring of the donations in parallel with increased state funding for political parties. We believe that a relevant amendment should be introduced to the organic Law of Georgia on Citizens’ Political Unions and the Election Code for improving reporting forms and monitoring of political parties’ funding. Moreover, an independent body should be established in charge of monitoring political parties’ funding and their pre-election campaign.
- We do not support the proposed twofold increase of the limit for the donations of election subjects. The existing limit is already high and Georgia occupies one of the leading positions in terms of high donations. Furthermore, we think that the proposed amendment will neither ensure the establishment of a more competitive election environment nor stimulate more donations to opposition parties and their diversification.
- We welcome the initiative that bans placement of district commissions in the buildings that belong to local self-governments and presidential envoys, and which grants representatives of elections subjects the right to participate in registration of complaints and calculation of election ballots jointly with representatives of precinct commissions. The registration process of election subjects will also be simplified.
- The applicable Election Code already includes the proposed media monitoring mechanism; therefore we do not think that the agreement proposes any change that would drastically alter the problems with media broadcasting.
In conclusion we think that the proposed amendments do not fully address the current problems, regulation of which is vital for improvement of the election environment. In view of the above we appeal to the political parties who have signed onto the proposed amendments to find a more comprehensive approach to the problem. Though the proposed changes contain positive trends, they are nonetheless insufficient for establishing a fair and free election environment. To this end the discussion shall continue on improvement of election environment. We are ready to participate in elaborating the necessary legislative amendments for improvement of election environment.