The ruling party worsens the regulation for electing the chairperson and professional members of the CEC, which contradicts the political agreement of April 19
On December 15, the Parliament of Georgia passed, in the first reading, a draft law which, if approved, practically abolishes the rule elaborated as a result of the political agreement of April 19, 2021 (the so-called Charles Michel’s agreement), and substantially worsens the procedure of electing the chairperson and professional members of the Central Election Commission (CEC) by the Parliament. This action is going to deepen the political polarization in the country and further decrease the independence of the election administration and the trust in it, as well as damage the country’s international image once again due to a violation of a promise made before international partners.
The draft law initiated by the ruling party MPs makes amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament, and it is being considered in an accelerated manner. The authors of the draft law indicate in the explanatory note that, as the powers of the acting chairperson and two members of the CEC expire in February next year, it is necessary to adopt the amendments in an accelerated manner.
According to the current regulations, the chairperson and professional members of the CEC are to be elected by two-thirds of the full composition of the Parliament (100 votes). If they cannot be elected by such a majority, they are to be approved by three-fifths of the Parliament (90 votes), while if it’s also impossible to garner such a quorum, a member of the CEC is to be elected by a simple majority (76 votes). The interval between each vote may not be less than four weeks. If the chairperson or member of the CEC is elected by two-thirds of the vote, they are to hold the position for five years, and in other cases – only for six months.
According to the proposed amendments, if a candidate fails to get the support of two-thirds of the full composition of the Parliament in the first vote, in the next vote the Parliament will be able to elect the candidate by a simple majority of its full composition, without any mandatory interval.
This procedure simplifies the election of candidates for CEC membership to such an extent that the parliamentary majority loses all motivation to reach an agreement with the parliamentary opposition, which deprives this part of the electoral reform of all value. Due to this, the rule developed as a result of the political agreement made in April, which was supposed to increase the inclusivity of the decision-making process and enhance trust in the election administration, is practically abolished.
It is noteworthy that this is not the first time when the ruling party has changed the agreed-upon rule of the election of CEC members and tailored it to its political interests. Before the 2021 Municipal Elections, the parliamentary majority also had no difficulty electing only those candidates that they supported – by decreasing, on a single occasion, the statutory interval between the votes for the election of CEC members from one month to one week. And the new amendment worsens this rule even further and already for the long term, not as a one-off measure.
We call upon the parliamentary majority to refuse to adopt the proposed draft law and to elect the next chairperson and members of the CEC based on the principle of dialogue with the parliamentary opposition and a broad consensus so that the public’s trust in the election administration is enhanced.