President Saakashvili welcomes “a broad agreement” reached within the inter-party working group on electoral reform and offers the Parliament to endorse amendments to the election code based on those agreements, Saakashvili’s spokesperson said.
The working group, facilitated by the U.S. International Democratic Institute, whose decision-making process was based on consensus, failed to endorse proposals as one of the provisions – setting of only 30% threshold for electing Tbilisi mayor – was strongly opposed by the Alliance for Georgia, uniting New Rights, Republican and Our Georgia-Free Democrats (OGFD) opposition parties. The Alliance is insisting on having at least of a 45% threshold (initially it was demanding 50%).
“It is unimaginable to reach a consensus on all the issues,” Manana Manjgaladze, president’s spokesperson, said at a news conference on November 26.
“The President is aware of the Alliance’s position and thinks that it was possible to make compromises on many issues and if someone expresses discontent it is simply oppositioning and nothing else,” she added.
Zurab Abashidze of OGFD party said the Alliance for Georgia will announce about its plans on how it would proceed further with local elections next week.
Leader of OGFD and of Alliance for Georgia, Irakli Alasania, announced in September about intention to run for Tbilisi mayoral office, but the proposed electoral system with 30% threshold reduces his chances for success. If there are several opposition candidates competing with each other, as well as with incumbent mayor and Saakashvili’s ally Gigi Ugulava, the overall opposition votes will be split and the ruling party candidate will likely garner more than others and more than 30% of votes avoiding runoff.
President’s spokesperson also said setting of 30% guaranteed that the directly elected mayor’s “legitimization will be high enough.”
“It means that after the President, [the Tbilisi mayor] will be among [political] leaders with number of garnered votes,” Manjgaladze said.
She also said that the President was reiterating his earlier proposal to hold local election in May 2010, instead of autumn and offered the constitutional commission to draft a relevant provisional constitutional amendment, which will endorse early local elections.
Direct election of Tbilisi mayor, Manjgaladze continued, was in itself an important decision. “People required it; it was President’s one of the initiatives and one of the demands from the opposition,” she said.
In his address to the UN General Assembly in September, 2009, President Saakashvili also pledged that along with Tbilisi, other major cities would also have directly elected mayors as a result of upcoming local elections. The plan, however, was dropped and the ruling party said direct election of mayor would only be held in the capital city.